Much has been made by "left-leaning" commentators, notably Thomas Frank, about the disaster created in Kansas by Gov. Sam Brownback's enactment of conservative policies. And yet check out this chart:
Not to diminish "What's the Matter With Kansas," but Arizona is in worse shape. It arguably offers the better example of what happens when orthodox right-wing policies are enacted in a state without the oil and massive federal investments enjoyed by Texas. That Arizona is a growing, highly urbanized state brings into even starker relief the complete bankruptcy of the Kookocracy's "conservative ideas."
And they own this mess. The interregnum of St. Janet saw a constitutionally weak governor playing defense and never tackling the sacred cows of land use, revenue or water. Arizona's ongoing woes are the work of the regressive right that has taken over the Republican Party.
And yet, polls show at best a dead heat between Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred DuVal — in every way the superior contender — and Republican Doug Ducey. And no chance for Democrats to gain control of the truly powerful branch of government, the state Legislature.
Phoenix-born air ace Frank Luke Jr., Arizona's most famous hero from World War I, with his thirteenth official kill.
Arizona had been a state for little more than two years when the cataclysm broke out in Europe a century ago. When the United States finally entered the conflict in 1917, doughboys and sailors fought under the new flag bearing the perfectly symmetrical 48 stars created with the entry of the "Baby State." While the Great War was not as transformative here as its continuation in World War II, it still brought big changes to Phoenix.
When the guns of August 1914 commenced, Phoenix's population had clocked in at 11,314 in the Census four years before. By 1920, it would be more than 29,000. Although it was the state capital (and home of the "lunatic asylym," which in those days was separate from the Legislature), it was still smaller than Tucson. But downtown had become a thriving commercial center with multistory buildings.
The streetcar "suburb" of craftsman bungalows was taking shape in what are now the Roosevelt and F.Q. Story historic districts and the southeast corner of Willo. The city was tightly bound to the old township, with additions running out to the capitol, north above McDowell, south of Grant and east to around 16th Street. By 1917, bungalows were being built in the Bella Vista addition northeast of Osborn and Central. The Santa Fe and Southern Pacific had completed branch lines to the town, but civic leaders were lobbying hard for a mainline railroad.
In 1914, Phoenix adopted the reformist commissioner-manager form of government. It was meant to tame the corruption of the wide-open Western town. Soon, it was back to business as usual with compromised commissioners. It would be after World War II that meaningful reform would come to City Hall.
Arizona, with 204,354 in the 1910 Census, was still a wild place. It had been only 28 years since the surrender of Geronimo. The state's economy was based on mining, ranching and, in the Salt River Valley, a farming cornucopia.
As a true son of Scotland*, let me offer some opinions about the vote for independence sure to offend everyone.
In another Great Britain, independence vote leader Alex Salmond would have met a very different fate from the Blair-Cameron meek acquiescence. King James, the Scot who gained the throne of more powerful and richer Britain (and added the name "Great"), would have beheaded him. Churchill would have had him shot. During the high Empire, he would have been shipped off to the Raj or some other posting to work off his energies. Even during the height of the Cold War, when the U.S. Navy operated nuclear subs from Holy Loch, Salmond's vote would have never made it out of Parliament.
He strikes me as a bit of a scoundrel, a hustler politician making impossible promises. The economic risks are serious — pointing this out seems to have increased the "Yes" vote — but there will be unintended consequences, many unfortunate. And peaceful "Scottish Independence" seems like the kind of boutique hobby that is only possible in a place that is placidly, but unsustainably, divorced from the real world.
President Obama has chosen to continue endless war. Imagine if we had spent the $3 trillion to $6 trillion already down the drain in Iraq and Afghanistan on America.
We could have built high-speed rail, bolstered our fading research dollars, seeded 21st century industries to address climate change and energy sustainability. But, no. Military Keynesianism is part of our industrial policy.
Do you feel safer than on Sept. 11, 2001? I don't.
The media played their role in scaring the hell out of the American people. They didn't mention the issues of overpopulation and climate change helping drive the destabilization, much less how we ran through Pottery Barn with a sledgehammer.
These adventures are profitable for the Military Industrial Complex and the neo-con echo chamber. For the common good, not so much. Our economy, marked by financial hustles and new electronic distractions, is a mess. This will affect our ability to win the next real war, where real national interests are at stake.
Today's downpour in Phoenix has flooded social media. The combination of so many new residents because of the metropolitan area's extreme population churn, sprawl built out in flood plains and the on-the-cheap engineering of freeways makes many believe this is a shocking and rare event. In fact, flooding is commonplace in Phoenix.
As a child in 1965, my mother took me to see the Salt River running wild over its banks. The snowpack was especially heavy that year and as it melted it filled the lakes northwest of the city, causing the Salt River Project to release water from its dams. My grandmother told stories about the floods in the early 1900s, including two that destroyed the Southern Pacific bridge just north of downtown Tempe. In one case, a passenger car was hanging over the edge. "You might not see this again in your lifetime," my mother said.
In high school in south Scottsdale, Indian Bend Wash flooded regularly, dividing the town in half and disrupting classes. The city built bridges but neglected to raise the approaches, so the wash merely went around them. It took years to engineer decent bridges and create the green belt along the Indian Bend.
The 1980 flood (one of ten that hit between 1967 and that year) cut off Tempe, Mesa and Chandler. Amtrak ran a special train (the Hattie B., named after first lady Hattie Babbitt) from those cities to Union Station. Ominously, officials worried Stewart Mountain Dam might fail. And when I returned in the 2000s, the Salt ran rampant again.
Present at the Creation: Chiang Kai-shek, FDR and Churchill at the Cairo Conference during World War II.
President Romney wants a "mighty" military. President Putin might be willing to fight a nuclear war to take down American "hegemony." President Xi is asserting a Chinese regional hegemony that writes its own international law. The brutality of ISIS is making Presidents Assad and Saddam Hussein look like pillars of stability by comparison. Americans, or at least the D.C. elites, claiming to value straight talk recoiled — quelle horreur! quelle gaffe! — when President Obama said "We don't have a strategy yet" regarding ISIS.
Better, I suppose they are saying, to further wreck the country with more of the Bush/Cheney fire, aim, ready. As the tour d'horizon above shows, these are unquiet times, made more so for those who know what happened 100 years ago.
As social critic Jim Kunstler says, we're not the world's hall monitor. On the other hand, Pax America, for all its fumbles and stains, has ensured the longest period without a general war since the 19th century. This was no accident.
Most American leaders of the 1940s, Franklin Roosevelt foremost among them, believed Hitler rose to unleash the most destructive war in history because of American isolationism. Both in idealism and realpolitik, FDR hoped that a United Nations anchored by the five victorious allied powers would prevent a recurrence. (He had the foresight to insist that China be included in the Security Council). But it would be anchored by American power.
Stalin wrecked the hopes for the former, but the latter prevented a hot World War III. Our might was always based foremost on having the world's top economy, its gains widely shared, the greatest middle class in history, the commons...and relatively high tax rates.
John Sperling passed on. I am mindful of Horace's de mortuis nil nisi bonum, but Sperling was a public figure of consequence, deserving an assessment. In keeping with the life he led, Sperling died in the Bay Area, not the city whose name he took for his empire of for-profit education.
The New York Times wrote, "A survivor of childhood illness, learning disability, poverty and physical abuse, he earned a doctorate from the University of Cambridge; a liberal former union organizer, he spent years battling government regulation; a longtime professor who did not enter business until his 50s, he became a spectacularly successful capitalist."
The University of Phoenix made him fabulously wealthy. His net worth in 2002 was $1.1 billion and he spent 20 years on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. With the troubles of parent company Apollo and its stock drop, he was below a billion in 2013.
He reveled in being quirky, combative and rebellious, especially against the education establishment and the government. And yet the GI Bill — authored by Arizona Sen. Ernest McFarland — allowed Sperling to get his bachelor's degree from Reed College in Portland, Ore. Federal student loans turned what would have once been considered a "business college" into a mighty profit engine.
Among the individuals who wrecked the commons, Sperling is right up there. Privatizing profits, socializing losses, the cost and quality of an education at the University of Phoenix and other for-profit schools deeply questionable.
The thing about most guns is that they kick, something especially true of shotguns and automatic weapons. When the firearm discharges, the explosion in the chamber and subsequent chain of events and physics to send the bullet or shot at, say, 1,200 feet per second or faster, causes the barrel to rise. In the case of a shotgun, it also sends the stock back against the shooter — in some cases hard enough to knock him down.
I learned this as a child in the West. I learned it the right way, with competent, demanding adults and on properly prepared and supervised ranges.
For example, the first time I ever fired an automatic rifle was when I was nine years old. Yes, the same age as the girl who accidentally killed her "instructor" at an Arizona "shooting range" when an Uzi kicked up and out of control.
In my case, some essentials were different. For example, I had been taught basic gun-handling at an early age. Never take a firearm without making sure it is unloaded; with an automatic or semi-auto, that means not just dropping the magazine (not a "clip" unless it's an M-1 rifle) but also clearing the chamber. Never point a gun at someone "unless you intend to shoot them," said my mother the crack shot. Never traverse a barrel in someone's direction as you are handling the weapon. Even if you know the gun is unloaded. You always "police your brass" after shooting.
Rogue's note: This originally appeared Friday as my online column in the Seattle Times.
While the world is watching Ferguson, Mo., it is useful to examine how this inner-ring suburb is emblematic of many unfortunate economic trends in America. In 2010, the town was more than 67 percent African-American, a demographic particularly hit hard not only by the Great Recession but by disruptions with a longer arc.
The homeownership rate in Ferguson was almost 10 percentage points lower than the state's as of 2012. Median household income of $37,517 compared with Missouri's $47,333 (Seattle: $63,470). Twenty-two percent of the population was below the federal poverty level vs. 15 percent statewide. This despite the world headquarters for Emerson Electric being nearby.
As of July, the national unemployment rate for African-Americans was 12.2 percent. For those aged 16 to 19, it was a staggering 36.8 percent (a year earlier, it had been 42.9 percent). For whites, the comparable numbers in July 2014 were 5.6 percent and 18.9 percent.
AUGUST SABBATICAL: Barring major war or an outbreak of good sense in Arizona, I must leave you to focus on the new David Mapstone Mystery. I'm pretty good at multi-tasking, but some things finally had to take a pause. There's still plenty to read:
• The Front Page (to your right) will continue to be updated.
• Browse the archives, including the ever-popular Phoenix history columns.
This post can be an open thread for your comments. See you again with all new columns in early September.
Even the local media are admitting that Phoenix is back in a housing slump. I mean no disrespect to hard-working Arizona journalists. But let's face it, the Real Estate Industrial Complex controls the conversation, withholds or doles out ad dollars and can, ahem, ensure that offending columnists are run off. So when the local media admit to a problem involving this sacred cow, head for the bomb shelter.
More about housing (yawn) later. The most arresting data come from a new report by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. Arizona's per-capita personal expenditures, adjusted for inflation, were virtually flat in 2012 compared to 2000.
And this is "consumer spending" kept afloat with massive debt considering that most wages have been stagnant or falling, and the typical American household saw a 36-percent decline in its wealth between 2003 and 2013.
Other mid-year observations:
Fewer people are working than before the Great Recession, and the available labor force has fallen...
Whether through absent-mindedness or a Kookish desire to obliterate the memory of FDR, the state came very close to tearing down the 1938 administration building at the Arizona State Fairgrounds built by the WPA. The loose-knit community of preservationists — the preservation police, as one called it — went into action and the building was saved.
It's exhausting work done by average people. Phoenix lacks a wealthy steward such as Paul Allen, who saved and restored Seattle's magnificent Union Station and Cinerama. Phoenix lacks a widespread preservation ethic, too. There have been successes, such as saving the Frank Lloyd Wright house. And crushing failures, such as Robert Sarver's demolition of two territorial-era hotels to make...a surface parking lot.
Precisely because of these things, because Phoenix does have a fascinating history worth protecting even if it lacked the abundant good bones of older big cities — this makes the battle so important. Cities with enchanting old buildings and streetscapes also attract the creative class and urban-oriented tech workers and startups.
Our losses are profound. Here are a few of the ones most worth mourning:
1. The Japanese flower gardens along Baseline Road.
Here's the way the media see things. "House Republican Flailing Over Border Bill Drags On," from Daily Kos. "House GOP Abandons Border Crisis Bill Amid Conservative Opposition," from Talking Points Memo. The New York Times writes:
Many Republicans worried that leaving for the break without passing any border legislation would be damaging to them politically in the midterm elections, and vowed to stay as long as was necessary to reach a compromise within their own ranks.
The House may pass some kind of bill, but the meme, among some smart journalists, rests on some questionable assumptions.
One, that Republicans want to make a constructive response to the "border crisis" of the moment. Two, that the GOP is terrified that it must address this and other immigration issues or lose the future to changing demographics. Thus, failure to "do something" is a Republican defeat. Three, that there is a split within the Republican Party that has any real meaning.
I addressed the third point in a previous post. Today, I want to explore the first two assumptions.
Having been unsuccessful in persuading Arizona to exit from the freeway to ruin, let me turn my attention to a more promising arena: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This tweet neatly encapsulates the tenor of the debate:
"I don't agree with your view of the Israel/Gaza conflict, but I believe you made your argument in good faith."--.No One.— Jeff Greenfield (@greenfield64) July 29, 2014
My intention is not to wade too deeply into the history of this epic tragedy. Others can do it with more authority and/or brio. For example, Juan Cole:
The United States as a great Power is facing a large number of challenges in the Muslim world, and Israel’s Gaza campaign is endangering both American diplomacy there and the very security of the U.S. Given the series of setbacks for the US in the Middle East, in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Egypt, Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu could scarcely have chosen a worst time to kill hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the full light of world media.
Israel has all the proof it needs that world opinion will never consider its right to exist important. The Obama White House, and a lot of the U.S. News Media, portray the Hamas-Israel conflict as something like an amateur soccer match, with the uneven score (40-odd Israeli soldiers killed versus 1000-plus Palestinians, mostly civilians) showing that the contest is unfair, that Israel has “gone too far,” that they have entered the same moral zone as Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, carrying out a “genocide.”
Of course, this is a real hot war, not a diversity training exercise, or a self-esteem course, or any sort of the kindergarten psychotherapy that has come to form the basis of American thought and policy. And a vicious world opinion uses America’s own moral fecklessness the way Hamas uses women and babies to shield its rocket installations.
Instead, my intention is to set the table for discussion, debate and reflection by Rogue's smart commenters with some admittedly broad-brush observations.
This event has brought more of the kind of national news coverage to Arizona that can only enhance its reputation as a cruel and hapless place to the talented, compassionate and those who make decisions about where to deploy capital. A sampling is here. Even John McCain, who would know, called it "torture."
On the other hand, probably a majority of Arizonans would share the comment of someone from Phoenix on Facebook: "I saw nothing wrong with it...he did NOT suffer...just slept longer." When challenged, he added, "I hope the bastard rots in hell!!!" According to the Pew Research Center, 55 percent of Americans favored the death penalty in 2013, down from a high of 78 percent in the 1980s.
Wood was convicted in 1991 for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Debra Dietz and her father, Eugene. He also pointed the gun at police, who shot him.
This is the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11, the first manned moon landing. It marked the greatest achievement yet of a burst of federal funding of science begun under President Dwight Eisenhower. The 50th year since college students from the north went to Mississippi for Freedom Summer. Fifty years ago the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. President Lyndon Johnson fought a war in Vietnam, misbegotten though it was, while declaring war in poverty. Soon, we will mark the half century since passage of the Voting Rights Act. In 1963, the Clean Air Act was approved, followed in 1972 by the Clean Water Act. In 1970, President Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce these laws.
What was the nation that did these things?
A few things stand out. It was a nation with the greatest middle class in history, the greatest industrial base the world had ever known, which made things — often with union hands, and even when not benefiting from the advances for working people ensured by organized labor. That nation believed in science and progress. It was run by two mass political parties encompassing conservatives, liberals and centrists. Taxes were high on the rich and progressive. Productivity was widely shared.
That nation is gone.
This is downtown (pre CityScape):
This isn't downtown, either (it's 24th Street and Camelback):
I wouldn't dare move to Chicago and claim that Hyde Park is the Loop. Nor could I say Hawthorne is downtown Minneapolis. Cincinnatians would quickly set me straight if I said Over the Rhine is downtown — downtown begins at Central Parkway. The natives in all these cities wouldn't let me get away with it. Nor would the transplants who felt a convert's zeal to protect the geographical integrity of their cities.
Yet people in "the Valley" (Silicon? Red River — of the north or of the south? San Joaquin? San Fernando? Of the Jolly Ho Ho Ho Green Giant?), many of them from these very cities, get away with this transgression every day in Phoenix.
Downtown Phoenix runs from Seventh Avenue to Seventh Street, and from the railroad tracks to Fillmore, or perhaps Roosevelt. It includes the original townsite and some additions. City Hall's definition taking the northern boundary to McDowell is ahistorical.
I have been hesitant to pass along recent stories about water. Some examples, "Arizona Cities Could Face Cutbacks in Water From Colorado River," from the New York Times; "Phoenix May Not Survive Climate Change" on Salon; "America is Running Out of Water," from Vice; "Arizona May Be California's Future" on Slate, and this Tucson Weekly examination of the situation in the Old Pueblo.
Oh, and from Smithsonian (!): "Arizona Could Be Out of Water in Six Years."
Water in Arizona is a highly complex issue. It risks being spun as "everything's fine!" by the boosters, lied about by real-estate hustlers and their stooges, or oversimplified as "Phoenix is about to run out of water!" by outside observers. So let me tiptoe in with a reminder of this Phoenix 101 primer, and then...
Some things we know:
1. As with so much else, Arizona is not Phoenix. Even the farthest-flung reaches of the metropolitan area are not the old city. In other words, each part of the state has distinct water issues.
2. Phoenix is not Death Valley with subdivisions. In fact, the Salt River Valley, sitting in and near the confluence of multiple rivers, is the most abundantly watered place in the Southwest. The Sonoran Desert is the planet's wettest desert. This is why the Phoenix area has attracted irrigation civilizations going back perhaps 3,000 years. Phoenix is a natural oasis.
3. Thanks to this and the billions of federal dollars spent on reclamation projects in the first half of the 20th century, the core of Phoenix is blessed with nearby renewable water supplies. The dams and lakes of the Salt River Project delivered 767,445 acre feet to the project's footprint in 2012 and held nearly 1.5 million acre feet in the reservoirs in fiscal 2013. This water comes from snowmelt in the east-central Arizona mountains.
The mainstream media are all over it: the "crisis of kids at the border" — children, not baby goats. Some outlets are joining in with the right-wing echo chamber to make this, finally something, into "Obama's Katrina."
In fact, the phenomenon of unaccompanied minors being sent norte has its origins in an obscure and well-intended law signed by President George W. Bush. You know, the one with the real Katrina. The situation has been made worse by corrupt Central American governments, our appetite for drugs and cheap labor, and federal austerity.
I will leave it to others to report more clearly on the children at the border — other than to note that the $3.7 billion requested by President Obama to respond to the situation represents 0.1 percent of the federal budget. But more than twice the annual federal support for beleaguered Amtrak.
My mission is different. It is to pose the question of what happens when climate change and all the disruptions it brings really kicks in? It is already at least partly to blame for conflicts and dislocation, such as the Syrian civil war. But we ain't seen nothing yet.
Human-caused climate change, especially if left unaddressed, has the potential to cause such damage on an overpopulated planet that any sober discussion risks sounding alarmist. So what happens when millions upon millions of the displaced huddled masses show up on the southern border?
Our world was made by the Great War. In big ways, with the creation of the Soviet Union, the bitter peace at Versailles that laid the foundation of World War II and the partition of the Ottoman Empire that recklessly established the multi-sectarian Iraq. In small ways: "No man's land," the trench coat, "shell shock," the tank. In France and Flanders (where "the poppies blow"), farmers still regularly call out demolition crews to dispose of unexploded ordinance. The Great War destroyed four empires and killed the Western idea of progress that had endured since at least the Enlightenment.
When my grandmother spoke of "the war," she meant the one that began in August 1914, when she was 25. She never forgave "Kaiser Bill" for, by her lights, starting it. Or, for that matter, Woodrow Wilson. At least 20 million soldiers and civilians were killed. The 1918 flu pandemic, which followed the war like a judgment from the almighty, claimed as many as 100 million.
And yet, a century ago right now, hardly anyone expected the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand to lead to apocalypse. Royals were murdered with some regularity. At worst, Austria-Hungary would punish Serbia. It had been a century since the last general European war and nations were tightly connected in the first great era of globalization. Monarchies were bound by blood. In 1910, Norman Angell wrote The Great Illusion, arguing that economic integration was so total that war was impossible (n.b. Washington and Beijing today). Most people agreed with him. And yet, as the month progressed, a war beyond anything the world had ever seen was inevitable.
The long summer of 1914 was said to have been especially beautiful. That's the way my grandmother remembered it. "The old world in its sunset was fair to see," wrote Winston Churchill.
I'm not sure if the cottage industry of explaining away Arizona's reality is on vacation in cooler climes or will scramble to attack this telling map that went with a story headlined: "The South is Essentially a Solid, Grim Bloc of Poverty."
Arizona Territory sent a delegate to the Confederate Congress throughout the War Between the States, so the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree.
Seriously, the data come from a new report by the Census Bureau of people living in "concentrated poverty areas." It digs down to the Census tract level, finding that more than 2 million Arizonans, or 33 percent, lived in tracts with highly concentrated poverty. That compares with 1.2 million, or 24 percent, in 2000. The comparable national averages were 25.7 percent and 18.1 percent respectively.
These areas have "higher crime rates, poor housing conditions, and fewer job opportunities." They breed a feedback loop of poverty.
It's easy to blame much or all of this on the Great Recession. Arizona's dependence on the housing sector left it in a virtual depression after the collapse. There's some truth to this, but the problems go much deeper.
Some fine reporting has been done, especially by the great investigative journalist John Dougherty, as well as from the Arizona Republic. Unfortunately, reportage of event has lacked the nationwide heft it deserves. There has been no Norman Maclean to immortalize it. Newspapers don't crusade any more.
The accountability I demanded when I wrote about Yarnell a year ago in one of Rogue's most popular columns has been conspicuously lacking. Clearly tactical mistakes — even inexcusable rookie blunders — were made. But what was learned? Only one weak bill emerged from the Legislature: clear vegetation, if you wish.
If you've been away on Mars thanks to the miracles of the private-sector space program that has replaced NASA, you missed John Huppenthal's star turn on the national stage. The Arizona pol was caught making anonymous posts on Internet sites under the names "Thucydides" and "Falcon9."
Among other things, he compared Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger to the Nazis, called those who receive public assistance "lazy pigs," and called for stomping out Spanish-language television and newspapers. Oh, and FDR was responsible for the rise of Hitler (even though both were elected at the same time).
As you can see on Arizona's Continuing Crisis this played far beyond "the Valley," providing more of the kind of publicity that is so helpful to Arizona's reputation.
First, Huppenthal gave the standard non-apology, "I sincerely regret if my comments have offended anyone." On Thursday, the Internet pressure had grown so great that he was forced to call a tearful press conference at which he "renounced and repudiated" the posts. But he declined to resign, as some demanded, including Lisa Graham Keegan, who is now to the left of today's GOP.
Huppenthal should resign, but not over being an Internet troll.
In this circa 1942 photo of the force, "Star" Johnson is in the middle of three black officers in the fourth row. To his right is his partner, Joe Davis. On the left is Joe Island. In uniform in the second row, behind and to the right of the man in suit and fedora, is Detective "Frenchy" Navarre.
Earlier this year when a Phoenix Police detective was killed in a shootout, the Arizona Republic ran a sidebar listing all the officers killed in the line of duty. The information came from a list kept by the police department. The trouble is that the list is incomplete. It omits the in-the-line-of-duty murder of David Lee "Star" Johnson in 1944.
He was killed by another cop.
I've told an abbreviated version of this event in another column, how it was a searing experience for a small but ambitious city. I've even used elements of it in my fiction. In this column, I want to tell the entire story based on the best research available. This true tale involves corruption, racism, betrayal and revenge in young Phoenix. It also is a powerful reminder that PPD should officially honor Johnson as an officer lost in the line of duty.
If a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds then it's a wonder Americans can even walk, so commodious are their heads. Of course, this isn't what Emerson had in mind — note the word "foolish." We are awash in foolish inconsistency. Americans want a pony.
Here's a good example: We've flushed $4 trillion down the toilet of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, aside from the enrichment of military contractors, got nothing.
Think of all the nation-building we could have done at home for that money — and investments that would have more than repaid themselves. We're the only urbanized advanced nation without high-speed rail. We no longer have a manned space program. And yet, if the media are to be believed, this is Obama's fault and, as always, has "Democrats on the defensive."
Why the hell are Republicans never on the defensive for pushing endless wars; deregulation, union busting, financialization and bad trade deals that have eviscerated the middle class; driving the nation to the brink of default; preventing action on climate change, and a host of nihilist destruction?
I hate to run with the herd but the election loss of Rep. Eric Cantor was historic, the first time a majority leader has ever been defeated in a primary. The most moronic headline in the mainstream press goes to the New York Times: "Bad Omen for Moderates." And Cantor was moderate, how?
Time Wounds All Heels. The revolution devours its children. The GOP is no longer a mass American political party but an extremist reactionary/theocratic party. And, as I recently wrote, the narrative of a civil war between the "establishment" and "tea party" is nonsense. A race to ever-more-crazy, sure.
One observation I found interesting in Big Sort America: Did Cantor lose because he was Jewish in a redistricted even-more red seat? He had hoped to become the first Jewish Speaker of the House.
After the jump, I give you some of the best stories Front Page Editor Dick Silc has assembled (and will add more as they develop):
Here's the short course: If you don't vote for Fred DuVal, you're an idiot. See you in November.
Here's the longer course: Most of what we will read and hear about the Arizona gubernatorial race will be worthless. There will be much sound and fury, signifying nothing.
A big example will be the Republican primary. The entertainment factor is not to be discounted if one is blessed or cursed with an acerbic wit. Who can be the craziest? Behind this, however, will be the reality that all Republicans are Kooks or under the thumb of the Kooks. I like former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, and in a different Arizona he might make a great governor. These attributes will no doubt doom him. If he succeeds, he will be a prisoner of the Kookocracy.
Little or nothing will be said about how the party has become exclusively the province of extremists. The era of the "Sue Nation" (Gerard, Grace, etc.) and Carolyn Allen and even Gov. Jane Dee Hull is gone. The few non-crazy Republicans in office must carefully toe the line or be branded RINOs and destroyed.
The state that empowered a centrist, pragmatic wing of the GOP, the one that existed up through 2000 when experts kept predicting that population growth would turn the state purple or blue, is arguably gone. The state that Bill Clinton carried in 1996, gone. In its place is a Big Sort place where people of the same political leanings have gathered. In our Cold Civil War, Arizona is solidly in the New Confederacy.
This beautiful scene in central Phoenix is from 1917. It makes you want to step into the picture and stroll. Not bad for a small, isolated city in a brand new state. More about that later. Alas, today the same location is a blighted vacant lot south of two once-graceful houses that have been turned into the Old Spaghetti Factory, the lawns replaced by asphalt.
I write because of an article in one of the online nooks of Fast Company headlined, "Phoenix is Pulling Off an Urban Miracle: Transforming into a Walkable City." Read and decide for yourself. On Facebook, someone said it came off like a press release. The kindest interpretation is that it represents an aspiration. To make it real, a little history might help.
Although Phoenix's growth is closely connected to the automobile age, the city was actually once highly walkable.
Let's define our terms. By "walkable," I don't mean you can drive your car to a canal bank or a desert "preserve" and hike. Not even the enchantingly shady, last time I checked, Murphy's Bridle Path. I mean the arrangements I enjoy in Seattle, where almost everything — shopping, restaurants, grocery stores, culture, health care, transportation hubs — is a quick walk or bus/bike ride away. One doesn't need a car.
Prior to the mid-1950s, when sprawl took off and never looked back, Phoenix offered such a "lifestyle." For anyone who grew up in the actual town prior to World War II, it was taken for granted.
They got Eric Shinseki's scalp. He's the same one who, as Army chief of staff, warned Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld that they were contemplating much too small a force to ensure success in invading Iraq. For this, he was forced into retirement. Had his warning been heeded, there would not be so many veterans needing care today in VA hospitals.
Although the relentless media meme will be that the VA mess is the fault of That (Black) Man in the White House and could well propel the duhs and ignos to vote so as to give control of the Senate to The Party That Wrecked America, the episode is full of irony and hypocrisy.
Here's another: The epicenter of the trouble seems to be the VA hospital in Phoenix (poor Carl Hayden, whose name is now affixed to the building, deserved better). Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake famously do nothing to help the state they claim to represent. It's part of their ideology. Only when there was political blood in the water, did these gentlemen remember their home Zip Codes. McCain, especially, was OUTRAGED. His default emotion on everything.
It seems that I cannot escape the toxic blob that Phoenix has become even when working on the new David Mapstone Mystery. I learn that the FBI's Phoenix Field Office decamped its Midtown fortress in 2010 for leased offices at Seventh Street and Deer Valley Road.
The FBI has a long history in Midtown, once being located on the second floor of a modest office still standing on the northeast corner of Third Avenue and Osborn. Back in the hardly innocent 1960s, it was labeled with "FBI" right on the outside wall. By the time I returned in the 2000s, the bureau was in a hulking, anonymous and heavily guarded midrise around Second Street and Indianola, with a motor pool a block away. If you tried to stop your car on the street to drink the Diet Coke you had purchased from the (now closed) nearby McDonald's, a uniformed federal officer appeared and told you to move on, no questions answered.
Now it is in a 210,202 square foot building built and owned by the Ryan Cos., meant to be home to the field office "for the next 20 years." News reports tell me the building won a LEED Silver design award, which shows the moronic/mendacious nature of these greenwash labels. The office is about 17 miles away from the most common destination for the feds, the Sandra Day "I Gave You The Presidency of George W. Bush" O'Connor Federal Courthouse downtown. It is located far from the urban footprint. How can this possibly be considered a green building?
A mass political party: Conservative Ronald Reagan, centrist Gerald Ford and liberal Nelson Rockefeller after a real intra-party battle in 1976.
Sorry, I don't buy it. Pretending that there is a titanic battle for "the soul of the party" between the "tea party" and the "establishment" provides much material for 24/7 media, which must always be fed. But there is little real disagreement. Where there is, it shows how the lunatic fringe that was once kept in the closet is now part of the GOP mainstream.
The Republicans, like the Democrats, was once a mass political party. That's the way politics have long been structured in these United States. We didn't have the plethora of parties that made up the polity of many European countries during much of the 20th century.
This conferred advantages. With conservative, liberal and "moderate" wings, each party could scoop up the maximum amount of voters and co-opt the emergence of third parties. Thus, for example, the liberal Democratic Party of FDR was also the home of Southern segregationists until Lyndon Johnson championed civil rights.
I've noticed that one of the most common calls on the metro Phoenix fire incident log, at least in the spring, is "snake removal." All these calls that I saw, requiring the response of an engine company or other fire apparatus, originated in north Scottsdale.
Facebook friends will have to be patient because some of this repeats posts I made there. But the response was enough that I thought it would be worth putting on Rogue. Also, this site maintained by Phoenix Fire, is not nearly as complete or entertaining as Seattle Fire's Real Time 911. In addition, Phoenix has a shockingly high number of 962s (auto accident with injuries) and 962s involving pedestrians and bicycles.
Back to the snakes.
This is territory where my buddies and I in high school would hike to seek out good (and safe) places for target shooting. It was completely empty of people and houses, breathtakingly beautiful Sonoran Desert with all manner of plant and animal life. We never imagined it would be otherwise.
From training as far back as Cub Scouts, we knew to tramp heavy — so the snake would be forewarned and slide out of the way — not to reach under bushes or into holes (hello, newcomers), avoid the terrain snakes like, pause to listen and how to react to the distinctive sound of a rattler. Being heavily armed, including with a varmint gun, helped, too. But the desert was always approached with respect. It could kill you.
A bad cold and the prep work to be the interlocutor of former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for a Seattle Arts & Lectures event Friday night make it impossible for me to do a post right now. So I turn it over to you. Also, I invite you to browse our popular pages and topics (at right).
Five rivers and several significant creeks converge in or near the Salt River Valley, making it the site of the most abundant water in the Southwest, an oasis going back thousands of years. But let's not kid ourselves. "We live in a desert" after all, the Midwesterners constantly lecture us. So it is right and proper that Phoenix increasingly reflects this reality.
Our young city was established in 1993, when Jack Swilling discovered one of the ancient Hohokam concrete "ground skins" dating from the eleventh century. He swept it off and for years it was called "Swilling's Sidewalk." Others learned that the prehistoric dwellers had built hundreds of miles of sidewalks, surface parking lots, wide roads and — everywhere — thrown down small gravel. From the site of what today is called Pueblo Grande Estates Gated Community, archaeologists unearthed huge caches of red roof tiles, which they believe the Indians used to barter with other tribes.
Darrell Duppa, who claimed to have been a investment-banker lord from the City of London, wanted to call this enchanting place Phoenix. It seemed right: Like the bird of mythology, the city had been reborn on the ashes of its predecessor. Settlers from the nearby village of Table (the original name "Mesa" sounded too Mexican) objected. So people settled for calling their frontier town "the Valley."
Despite all the hype, the housing depression continues, with building permits barely above levels of the 1990 recession...
...Growth in housing prices has bounced back somewhat, measured quarterly in year-over-year. But much of it is driven by speculators buying up rental properties and securitizing them. As you can see, it's way out of line with historic norms and raises affordability issues for average Arizonans, as well as a host of other potential problems...
I've thought Donald Sterling (nee Tokowitz) was a pig since he moved the Clippers from San Diego in 1984 when I lived there. Commissioner Adam Silver banning him from the NBA for life over racist comments is entirely appropriate.
Yet the affair leaves a bad taste. It is not news that Sterling makes outspoken racist statements and discriminated as a landlord. One wonders why the NAACP was going to give him a lifetime achievement award before the latest blowup. And at age 80, that lifetime ban's sure to sting.
But this time Sterling met that strange inflection point in our culture when the insatiable appetite of 24/7 media meets a bad rich ugly white dude spewing hate and subjects him to the same beat-down as one of the victims of Billy Bob Thornton's character in FX's Fargo. Then America pats itself on the back and moves on.
Time wounds all heels. Or so we wish. I suffer from schadenfreude-interruptus.
Dorothea Lange photographed this homeless family in 1939. They had been picking cotton in Phoenix but moved on when the work ran out.
The Great Depression did not bypass our little oasis city. Even if, as historian Bradford Luckingham writes, the city's newspapers paid little attention to the 1929 crash and most Phoenicians, like most Americans, didn't own stock, the hard times soon arrived.
The severe contraction from 1930 through 1933 claimed two of the city's six banks and two of its five building-and-loan associations. Another, Valley Bank, was on the edge of failure. Depositors were wiped out in these pre-FDIC days. Arizona's big Three Cs of copper, cattle and cotton were decimated as demand collapsed. The state actually lost population in the early 1930s.
In Phoenix, unemployment grew while businesses closed and relief organizations were overwhelmed. My grandmother told stories about Okies and Texans arriving in jalopies, sometimes on foot or as hobos on freight trains. Victims of the Dust Bowl came by the thousands to the Salt River Valley, not, as in Grapes of Wrath, going as far as California (something confirmed by Philip VanderMeer in his insightful Desert Visions and the Making of Phoenix).
So don't believe it if you hear the shorthand that "Phoenix barely felt the Depression." Much less that its economic recovery came because of the "rugged individualism" of Phoenicians. For the second time in its young life, Phoenix was rescued by the federal government.
The Great Depression was the overarching story of Phoenix in the 1930s. And the New Deal not only saved the city and state much suffering, but arguably had greater effect because of their small populations and economic composition. Arizona voted overwhelmingly for FDR, who is shown campaigning in Phoenix in 1931. He is at the wheel of the car as always, with Sen. Carl Hayden and Gov. George W.P. Hunt beside him. It proved a good bet.
A helicopter crew aboard the destroyer USS Kidd in the Indian Ocean, involved in the search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370.
By Emil Pulsifer, Guest Rogue
There will be much Monday-morning quarterbacking on the Mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Not here. Over two days, beginning March 17, I predicted where the missing plane would be found and by whom, providing reasoning to back it up. Thereafter I gave frequent updates of analysis and criticism as new developments occurred. Sift through the full record of date-stamped comments, here.
The errors of investigators and of the media reporting on them can be summed up as three logical fallacies: confirmation bias, argument from authority, and argument from ignorance.
Searchers began their efforts in a part of the ocean known to accumulate vast collections of garbage (it's even called a "garbage gyre"), yet the media treated every stray object floating in the water as if it had a good chance to be plane debris instead of almost certainly being garbage, despite repeated disappointments.
Soon the satellite photographs showed many hundreds of objects, an embarrassment of riches. Suddenly, the search shifted hundreds of miles to the north, to an area which, coincidentally, offered searchers far more congenial weather. The mass of objects in the old search area was summarily dismissed, even though most of these remained unexamined. When new objects were spotted in the new search area, the media response remained the same. This time for sure!
Rogue has been down much of the time in recent days. The cause was a hacker attack on the hosting service, Typepad. I apologize to readers who were inconvenienced. This raises larger issues, such as whether a backup site is needed. I don't have the answers yet. But if the site should go down again, you will be more likely to reach the basic postings using www.roguecolumnist.typepad.com. Then, for specific pages, insert the "typepad" on url for that page. E.g. www.roguecolumnist.typepad.com/rogue_columnist/2014/04/ballingers-masterpiece.html
You can also check the status of Typepad here.
When the pink-and-white Civic Center opened at Central and McDowell in 1950, it included a "little theater" but the art museum didn't come along for another nine years. Both were considered small confections to the main course: the public library. Things were not much different in 1974, when a young University of Kansas graduate named Jim Ballinger joined the museum's staff as curator of collections.
That the Phoenix Art Museum today enjoys national stature and draws prestigious international exhibitions — and has grown to take up most of the former Civic Center block — is mostly because of Ballinger, who announced Thursday that he will retire after 40 years with PAM. He became director in 1982. No other single figure has done more for the city's cultural landscape — to create, grow and sustain one — than Ballinger.
The reader should know that Ballinger and I are friends. We also were neighbors on Holly Street in Willo. But he first sought me out when I started as a columnist at the Arizona Republic, writing on such issues as the city and state's economic narrowness, lack of civic engagement, poor educational outcomes and difficulty in retaining talent. In our first conversation, he showed his incisive grasp of how such challenges would affect the future viability of cultural institutions.
Obamacare is doing better than expected. Benghazi lacks traction. The vast enterprise of "conservative" politics needs something, anything, to keep the red-state proles in the state of constant agitation that is so profitable for the oligarchs that bankroll it. Could Cliven Bundy be the ticket?
This is the man who has been flouting the law for years, grazing his cattle on public lands northeast of Las Vegas. When the feds finally moved in to seize the livestock, an armed protest caused them to withdraw.
To the right he is a hero standing up against federal "tyranny." A National Review writer likened his "little sedition" to the non-violent movement of Ghandi.
I broke away from a larger Rogue project to offer a few thoughts, given the interest by our readers here. You should especially read Soleri's excellent comments on l'affaire Bundy on the thread below the previous post.
Actually being someone from the West, among my first thoughts was how could Bundy be grazing 900 head in such desolate country? At least when I was growing up, a 640-acre "section" of Arizona rangeland could support only about 20 head — and that was barring drought.
Comes the New York Times with an op-ed headlined, "Global warming scare tactics." One point is indisputable: that journalists and those concerned about climate change shouldn't leap to blame the phenomenon for every major natural disaster.
But the deeper point embedded is that those of us in the reality-based community can't reach our fellow citizens on the right unless we tamp down our sense of "obligation to convey the alarming facts":
While the urgency that motivates exaggerated claims is understandable, turning down the rhetoric and embracing solutions like nuclear energy will better serve efforts to slow global warming.
A host of little nagging problems trails this article like feral dogs chasing an SUV through the remains of suburbia. The authors, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, are primus inter pares among the robooted "pragmatic" environmental movement. In almost every case, they argue environmentalism has lost, apparently because of its bellicosity, and must "move on." Alternatives must become cheaper than fossil fuels. How this can happen when policy prevents fossil fuels from being accurately priced, they never say. And new nukes aren't being built because of resistance from greens, but from Wall Street.
But this is the small stuff. The big one is how America has pretty much come to the end of dialogue. This has happened only one other time, during the 1850s, with the compromisers dead and the nation headed to the Civil War. Oh, my stars and garters! I am being alarmist! Uh...hmmm...can I not alienate conservative readers?
The only places that come close are San Antonio (where the city manager is the former deputy city manager in Phoenix, Sheryl Sculley) and Dallas. San Diego abandoned council-manager in 2006.
The alternative is the strong mayor form, where the mayor acts as a largely independent chief executive and the city council is a legislative body. Think: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Detroit and Seattle.
Twelve of the 20 most populous American cities have strong mayors. The remainder are council-manager. Now there is at least a boomlet to bring a strong mayor form to Phoenix.
Everybody who was anybody in Phoenix has a favorite story about Charles H Keating Jr., who died this week at 90. Here's mine. By the time I came back in 2000, Keating, the disgraced imprisoned former S&L kingpin, was once again a fixture around town. I would run into him at Durant's, where he was cordial but declined my invitation to sit down sometime and tell his story.
One day the restaurant was packed and Keating couldn't get seated. He confronted the day manager, the fabulous Mari Connor, and said, "Do you know who I am?" Without a second's hesitation at a restaurant that had hosted governors and mobsters, Connor said, "No, but I'm sure they can seat you up the street at Alexi's. Otherwise, the wait is thirty minutes."
Time wounds all heels.
I was gone from Phoenix during Keating's glory days of the 1980s. He developed Dobson Ranch in Mesa and Estrella Mountain Ranch in Goodyear among many other projects. The most impressive physical monument he left behind was the Phoenician resort. The name says much about the time: Phoenix was still the center of "the Valley's" economic universe. It would never happen today; the resort claims it is in Scottsdale, even though it in the city. And for all the criticism heaped upon it, the Phoenician to me remains a beautiful place — built within the existing urban footprint — with an apt, evocative, allusionary name.
Mark today. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released what my grandmother would have called the "Katy bar the door" report on climate change. It is the product of the sober work by hundreds of actual climate scientists. Read it for yourself. Please.
And mark the day you knew, without doubt. Climate change is real, human-made, happening now with growing costs — and the worst is yet to come. Especially if we do nothing.
Someday historians will note the curious contrasts of our time. So much of the public square is dominated by scolds with their calculators, talking about what we can't afford, how the cost side of the ledger must be the deciding factor in any debate.
Yet these are the same people who block any attempt to show the astronomic costs of doing nothing to stop pumping carbon into the atmosphere.
Those historians will shake their heads at our myths about "makers and takers," "bootsrappers" vs. "welfare queens" and the widespread belief that government was an impediment to the efficient, justified workings of "the free market."
The news stories said that ADOT was seeking our input on its study of passenger rail between Phoenix and Tucson. It isn't seeking my input for reasons that will become apparent, but here goes anyway.
It was always a joke renaming this entity the Arizona Department of Transportation. It was and remains in spirit the Arizona Highway Department, committed to building highways. The glory days were under state engineer William Price (1963-1977), when Arizona could boast some of the finest highways in America, before population growth and underfunding overwhelmed the agency.
Also under Price, the Highway Department began its swerve from serving the public interest to private interests and it's never looked back. You can see an early indication in the odd, seemingly illogical, westward shift the Black Canyon Freeway makes between Northern and Dunlap in Phoenix. This mission became gospel with the metro Phoenix freeway system, most of which was built to benefit private land owners whose worthless desert was suddenly highly profitable because a freeway was coming. The damage done to the city by the ensuing sprawl was catastrophic and is probably irreversible.
It is fitting that a federal judge chose this week to uphold the power of Arizona and Kansas to require proof of citizenship in order to vote.
This was the week in 1965 when 25,000 marchers led by Martin Luther King Jr. reached Montgomery from Selma, Ala., a landmark in the long, bloody struggle for equal voting rights.
Who says the clock can't be turned back?
My favorite quote came from Arizona Attorney General Tom Horney: “This decision is an important victory against the Obama administration because it ensures that only U.S. citizens, and not illegals, vote in Arizona elections.”
Ah! Now I understand! The reason a bunch of ignorant, nihilistic Krackpots have taken over state government in Arizona is because illegal immigrants have been voting them in. Now, thanks to this George W. Bush-appointed judge in Wichita, perhaps sanity can return to the capitol in Phoenix.
It was reported earlier this week that independents have surpassed Republicans as the largest voting bloc in Arizona. Independents are only slightly ahead of GOP registration. The bad news is that only 29 percent of the state's registered voters are Democrats. In 1992, Democrats made up 42.5 percent of voters.
More bad news would come in the unasked questions. How many of these "independents" trend to the right when they vote? And how many are low-information voters who will also naturally vote for "conservatives," if they vote at all? Nationally, the "independent" label has been well exposed as misleading. I hate to sun on the parade, but Arizona is a red state not a purple one.
I mention this in the context of the wider political story of 2014: The Democrats are running scared, running away from President Obama and Obamacare. The political press is all but in agreement that the Republicans will take control of the Senate in the fall election.
As an editor of mine used to say, Why is that?