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Archives for May 2015

Happiness is a warm gun

Drag out your copy of the White Album and listen to “Happiness” while you read this piece.

I had no idea that white males in this country were so downtrodden. My heart bleats (in this case it’s just gas). Read this.

Cato and Immigration

We liberals hold that there are few more evil arch conservatives than the billionaire Koch brothers who are reportedly about to spend $900 million to elect equally evil, right-wing candidates.


In 1974, Charles Koch founded the Cato Institute, a libertarian conglomeration of economists and political scientists and other scholars of the Libertarian persuasion. You should, therefore, consider Cato as the offspring of the Koch boys.

What’s more:

The Cato Institute has for years advocated unrestricted immigration. It is at the heart of its free-market argument. Cato (and Koch) for decades have held that Dreamers and their families in all the countries in all the world ought to be able to roam free to work where they like as they like. This should be true, according to Cato, for immigrants in Africa and the Middle East seeking to work in E.U. countries. Here is a Cato video of one of its scholars advocating unrestricted immigration.

This is not an extreme argument, the Joe Arpaios of the world notwithstanding. Indeed, it is rational. Immigration enforcement has cost billions and thousands of dead Mexicans and Central Americans. The waste of blood and money has been staggering. And the worst of it is that it continues.

How the bail cometh?

We note that one of the bikers in the Waco kerfuffle made bail. It was set for all 170 hog lovers at $1 million, the judge being one of those bench sitters who takes exception to nine deaths.  Thing is, we don’t know whom shot who; the whoms might include the cops who apparently knew there was a pow wow in progress and had some inkling of trouble. So far whom only knows.

The bail thing raises the question of whence comes the dinero, dude?

I figure he/she must be stock market whiz.

Deflation blues

OK, this is pissy. I admit. But could you call it something other than “Deflategate”? Please? In the great scheme of world history, letting the air out of a frozen football ranks pretty low on the scandal totem pole. This business of labeling every tom, dick and harry scandal trivializes a great historic presidential scandal. Watergate led to the eviction of Richard Milhous Nixon from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. “Deflategate’ has led to our-game suspension for Tom Brady.

I happen to think that the worst of Tom Brady’s sins will not necessarily include letting air out of a pigskin. Lying about it is much worse. The suspension by the National Felons League will cost him a few hundred grand. In one sense it seems harsh. Doubtful Brady needed less air in the ball, particularly given the fact that New England left the entrails of the Indianapolis Colts all over the Northeast. The score was top heavy, the game was boring, the Colts defense abysmal. The best you could do was drink a lot of soda and fill up on chips and salsa. It was a game that made the commercials fascinating and engrossing by comparison.

Watergate, in great contrast, was the height of political drama — “what did the president know and when did he know it” and the wiggle-waggle eyebrows of a country lawyer from North Carolina.

Call it something else, like the least of the NFL’s problems.

Of moguls and mongols

EJ Montini writing in his March 19 column in the Arizona Republic referred to Guv Doogie Ducey as “a former ice-cream mogul.”

Seems odd, que no? Moguls are powerful guys. They spit nails, say words like “youse” and “dumbass,” and even worse words that rhyme with duck, luck and muck. Moguls also are tough guys. They run movie studios with iron fists and loud and long farts. Moguls indulge language more colorfully because they have limited vocabularies and find this no handicap (Sam Goldwyn: “Include me out”).

Moguls are closely related — word wise and genetically — to mongols. Mongols are serious, bad-ass coves of another era. My favorite mongol was Ghengis Khan. He and his is army traveled light. When they got hungry, they sucked blood from their horses. The horses didn’t mind. They were just as mean bloodless.

It is too strange to apply the word “mogul” to a man like Guv Doogie who really ought to driving a truck with a lot of tinkle music, wearing white pants, a white shirt and a white hat and dispensing chocolate vanilla bars to third and fourth graders. He is filled with good humors fed by a screw-all policy.

It may be that Montini and others simply are trying to apply respectful and like to use flattering nouns and adjectives to describe a new governor who spent his life successfully hustling ice cream in a land of 110-degree summer days. Not exactly a challenge along the lines of a clash involving a mogul horde, clashing swords, slitting throats, lopping off heads and then pausing for a bit of refreshment in the form of Jamoca almond fudge cones washed down with horse blood.

So far Guv. Doogie D. traveling around the state, sort of a 21st Century with a good humor guys, making life tough for students, but better for rich people.

The premise here is to reject the notion the ice cream governor should be described as a mogul. Doogie is no mogul. He is the Good Humor Man (tinkle, tinkle) selling fibs, folly and falderal coated with chocolate and nuts on a stick. That will be $99 million, please.



I notice that this piece is 459 words. There were times when one had to adhere to particular lengths in a newspaper piece, particularly editorials. The lengths once in a while were dictated by editors who had developed serious shorts in their feedback loops.

To wit: Not long before I bailed from the Star, I was required to write editorials of an exact length. These editorials had to be 585 words. It mattered not a whit if the subject did not require such length. The editor was persuaded that the look of the page created reader appeal. There were times when I could get away with 587 words and others when 583 would fit. Any more or fewer words would break the line, which dictated the space and therefore the design of the page.


One editorial I remember in particular because it I had to dig deep to feed the monster and arrive at 585 words. The subject was the economic balloon and how Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan was noting the excessive exuberance of investors. I wrote in support of Greenspan, an obvious point as share prices were climbing relentlessly fired by the glowing optimism of investors. It was an affirmative editorial and did not call for much argument as we were happily aligned with the stars. But this part took but less than 300 words to present. I was light 50 percent more copy to fill the idiotically allocated space. I dug a long way back in history to make up for the shortfall. I described the tulip bubble, 1634-1637. At its high, one tulip was worth an estate. I tramped this ground for a while, picking up shards and other detritus of history until I reached the magic number 585.

It was arbitrary, stupid, wholly indefensible and nonsensical, Did I mention it was stupid?

My other job was to reduce columns written by George F. Will and Molly Ivins to 505 words. This sounds somewhat reasonable until you understand that Will consistently wrote 750 words. This amounted to eliminating a third of his column and still trying to preserve the point of his argument. Ivins wrote 750 words twice a week, but a third column normally ran about 900 words. Cutting this woman’s work was heartbreaking, beyond stupid. It was a travesty, a mortal sin, an inexcusable transgression.

This all was done in the name of design, the look of the newspaper. It was thought to be THE selling point and would gather readers at the waters where they would become devoted readers. But readers are not stupid, contrary to the view from corporate headquarters.

The subscriptions began to dwindle. And in 2007 they troubles came and the revenue slipped away to places like Google.

I left the paper in 2005 because I could. I happened to among the first to get out voluntarily. Many more followed as reductions in force and with much less generous terms.


If you needed any proof that the Republican majority of the Arizona Legislature hasn’t the least idea what it is doing, look no further than its budgetary shell game with charter schools.

The Ledge under its august gubernatorial leadership sought to screw the smaller schools by lopping of $6.3 million in yearly funding. The department of education says that figure is more than double. They will be screwed double under the department’s reading of the law — the cut amounts to $15 million.

Here is Rep. Paul Boyer, Phoenix Republican, quoted in the Arizona Republic: “I was told by the governor that it would be $6 million the first year,” he said. “That was the agreement. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have voted for it. It was a tough pill to swallow as it was.”

Alas, poor Boyer. Didn’t know the gun was loaded.

There are many tough pills to swallow in the Great Desert Ledge. If there is a lesson there, Boyer should think twice before taking an Arizona governor’s word. Insofar as Republican governors are concerned, Whoppers aren’t just about hamburgers.

If Democrats were mean, nasty and vindictive, they might revel or delight in a few Republicans being hoist upon their arrogant petards after being summarily screwed by their governor. I, however, would never entertain such thoughts.

It would be so wrong.


News from the garden

For those of you who have sampled the product of my pink grapefruit tree, I am pleased as punch to report that this season all appears promising. The tree flowered with gusto this spring and incipient fruits are appearing. I estimate conservatively the tree last year produced between 60 and 70 grapefruits. I experimented with a new fertilizer. Its incredibly high nitrogen content reminds of the brains of some newspaper publishers.

Here is a picture of the venerable tree. Last year it suffered severe sunburn on its trunk. I was told by experts that I should use something called tree wrap rather than use paint to protect its bark. It flaked off in about a month. Hence, the paint. The bale of alfalfa is to be used for mulch.


The roses also have prospered, indeed flourished, with this new fertilizer. At last count, I have 32 roses. Sometimes the count is 31, and sometimes it is 33. I am not entirely certain of the reason for the discrepancy. I suspect it has to do with all those dank and dark years being forced to rub elbows and balance sheets with knuckle-dragging corporate executives.



Not all my vines are happy would-be grape producers. Strangely enough, I have one vine, a table grape variety called the dark putin, that grows a few inches a day. Here is a shot of this putin — sometimes called the puta — engulfing a desert willow tree:


As you can see, it an acquisitive vine, seeking to engulf, indeed steal, lots of territory.

Here are a shot of a couple other vines:


In contrast to the puta, these vines are timid. They lack vitality. This is, as Churchill might say, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

The kumquat tree was pruned in January, excessively so, I am afraid. I got carried away. But I had my reasons. I have accused it of having buckled my concrete patio with its engorged roots, causing consternation, hand wringing and a plethora of unnecessary expense. Its response is to feign disinterest while sprouting brand-spanking new shoots all up and down its trunks. To wit:



To me, this is nothing short of hubris. It seems determined to cause further mayhem, kumquat may.

Thanks for allowing me this rant, mulch obliged.

Roberto Valenzuela today

For this who want to know what Roberto Valenzuela is doing today. Here is an e-mail I received today from his lawyer Gloria Goldman:

It is nice to hear from you, Steve.

Roberto is married and a U.S. citizen.  He is remarkable.  He taught himself photography is now world-renown.  He has written two books on photography.  He and his wife live in Beverly Hills CA.  

Here are some interesting links.



How do we describe him??  Incredible!!  

His youngest sister will marry in November and I will finally file for her green card status based on the marriage.  That is how I began to unravel Roberto’s status-after he married Kim.  Their mother is also a US citizen.  There is one remaining oldest brother who receives work permission every year.  



There are so few moments these days when you can stand up and applaud a decision by government. The decision yesterday by the Arizona Board of Regents to permit Dreamers — the children of illegal immigrants — to pay in-state tuition in the Arizona university system is one of them.

The thing about Dreamers is that they are a group of individuals. Each one has his or her story. I wrote about one such individual for the Star in December of 2003. The story had a happy ending. Tucson immigration attorney Gloria Goldman succeeded in getting Roberto the right to remain in this country.

Roberto Valenzuela is in his mid 20s. He has lived in Tucson since he was 11. At Rincon High School, he attended Boys State. He did so well there he was selected as one of two Arizona boys to attend Boys Nation, where he spent about five minutes speaking with then President Bill Clinton. He did so as an an illegal immigrant.

 Since 1995, his attorney has been trying to win legal residency status for Valenzuela. Last year, one judge on the Board of Immigration Appeals denied the appeal by Valenzuela, his brother, a sister and his mother for legal residency. Valenzuela’s lawyer, Gloria Goldman, appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. She expects the appeal will sit there for a long while. There’s a great backlog of immigration cases pending in the 9th Circuit Court, Goldman said.

 Valenzuela‘s case clearly illustrates why Congress should pass the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. For whatever reason, numerous minors illegally entered the United States, often without having any say in the decision to do so. This bill grants residency to illegal immigrants who entered the United States before they were 16 and have lived here for at least five years. To qualify, immigrants would have to graduate from high school and complete two years of college or military service.

 Valenzuela clearly would qualify. He has graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in international business and is teaching at a local high school, said Goldman.

 The DREAM bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last October by a 16-to-3 margin. It is supported by both Arizona senators, Jon Kyl and John McCain. A similar bill, the Student Adjustment Act, was introduced in the House.

 Another indication that a consensus in favor of this bill is growing is that late last month Phoenix immigration Judge John W. Richardson postponed deportation hearings for four illegal immigrants who happen to be high academic achievers. Richardson said by this time next year, “the tea leaves should be pretty clear” as to whether Congress will pass the bill. It was a clear indication that Richardson considered the students as worthy residents, if not citizens. He postponed the hearings 10 months – until September of next year – as a government immigration attorney strongly protested, arguing that the four should be deported. If the DREAM bill does not pass by September, the four students certainly will be deported. Valenzuela also could share a similar fate.

 The Phoenix students have graduated from high school and are attending college. Along with Valenzuela, they are as American as anyone who was born in this country. They are productive contributors to society. As such, they should be allowed to remain here.

Deadly beliefs

Until Islam can do what Judaism and Christianity have done — question, critique, interpret, and ultimately modernize its holy scripture — it cannot free Muslims from a host of anachronistic and at times deadly beliefs and practices.

from Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now by Ayaan Hirsi Ali