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April 28, 2010


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This post feels like the grand summation of trends, history, contradictions, and heartache that is Arizona. No one else is writing this story but Talton. No else dares.

I strain against my own compulsive pessimism to write this: it's not over. The near-universal revulsion, mostly outside Arizona, for this new law suggests its own tipping point. Instead of meekly acquiescing to the latest far-right outrage du jour, those with some degree of conscience and decency are standing up. Arizona is now a punchline on TV talk shows. The joke is about backwardness and zealotry. And the function Arizona now serves is to relieve one's ordinary sense of failure with a conspicuous display of failure. Joel Kotkin's wet dream of an ascendant autotopia is now in deep, deep trouble.

That's the good news. Things may finally have gotten so bad that Hispanics will start voting. The economy will worsen, which means business leaders may finally speak up. Somewhere in the tile-and-stucoo crapola of greater Phoenix some stray human spirits may finally talk back to talk radio.

What did it take? Just the logical outcome from years of cultivated meanness. Thanks to Russell Pearce and Joe Arpaio for illuminating this low road. We finally arrived at the nadir of right-wing nihilism. If we want to go any lower, we'll have to dig with our hands.

As bad as it is here in Arizona and in America, it would be a mistake to think that we have "finally arrived at the nadir of right-wing nihlism." How many of us thought that when Reagan was elected. It will get worse before it gets better. Here in Arizona, Jon is right that the business community has collapsed as a moderating political force.

Nobody's responded to my question yet, so I'll keep trying. What are the best methods to create reasoned public dialog on key issues? "US vs THEM"just digs folks into their encrusted positions. Some churches may have pastors who are capable of creating these "reasoning together" forums where we learn to actually listen to others and perhaps reach some middle ground.

Or did somebody spike my granola?

For whatever it's worth, yesterday, I had a couple of conversations about Arizona life. One was with at a local restaurant with a middle-aged woman who might be described as embracing the "full Kook." Won't belabor how that one went.

The second conversation was with a group of students at Scottsdale Community College. It was encouraging. Most were appalled at Arizona's new immigration and permit-less gun laws. They were not only politically aware, but eagerly looking for some direction in what they could do to make their views known. They seem quite appreciative of a few ideas that I gave them.

Jim, I guess the reason answers are not coming your way is because there are none.

I have life-long friends who I've spent years discussing issues in which we would eventually arrive at an agreement that satisfied all participants. There used to be listening, give and take, compromise then agreement.

Now, depending on who watches FOX, who watches CNN, who watches MSNBC, they dig in their heels based on what they heard on "their only channel of imformation input" and they refuse to listen to any other view point.

Were I to become "Dictator of the world" I would immediately ban all 24 hour news TV. I would only allow newspapers to report the news. 24 hour news usually get the news out first and very often it is wrong. Newspapers had time to get it right most of the time. Plus, it would create a great side benefit. America would learn to read again.

P.S. Sorry Buddy, but in my dictatorship granola would also be banned. Possession of granola with intent to sell would be punishable by death.

Jim, I don't think the Left, which is pretty much the main element here, started this war. Indeed, as Obama frequently shows, it tends to lean over backwards trying to accommodate the Right. Bill Maher puts it this way: the Democrats are the Republican Party of the 1960s and the Republican Party is now The John Birch Society.

What happened to political discourse and civility was the rise of a right-wing media machine that enabled an alternate reality to emerge. No longer are conservtives bound by the basic rules of evidence. They can through the magic of repetition simply assert their opinions as "truth". And since their media counters a hated "liberal" mainstream media, the "us vs them" dynamic is further emboldened.

The recent "epistemic closure" discussion in the conservative blogosphere is necessary reading on this subject. While I would acknowledge everyone's tendency to their own biases and shading, there is an order-of-magnitude difference between the Left's intellectual standards and the Right's. The Right is anti-intellectual for a reason, and one they're quite proud of.

I encourage everyone to remain open and friendly but there's only so much you can do with people who assert as fact derangements like Obama's Kenyan birth or the "socialism" in a very moderate health-care initiative. At that point, the best you can do is wish them luck and say goodbye.

I, too, have lost or nearly lost lifelong Arizona friends over this difference of world views. As others make clear, the white-right has a closed-loop mode of thinking where the GOP propaganda explains all and allows for no independent thought (How different from Barry Goldwater et al). Progressives would seem a natural fit for the alleged populism of the Tea Party, but in fact the partiers are fine with corporate power and other conservative policies that have led to their economic troubles and even much of their political discontent. Talk radio tells them what to do. No wonder: Arizona is America's worst state in education. On a narrow level, Arizona is a secular state, especially among the Anglos, so don't look for much from the religious community. The mainstream Protestants that historically challenged such injustice (as when Kermit Long, senior pastor at Central Methodist Church, bastion of the establishment, locked arms with Dr. King in south Phoenix) are dying. Our brothers and sisters in the mega-churches and LDS will not overtly challenge it, and they fear for the immortal souls of Methodists and such. The Roman Catholic hierarchy might step forward, a few have. But Christians are not in agreement. So I don't know how you find the path into the white-right.

Mostly, in this column I found myself agreeing while Mr. Talton; especially with the needless gun laws (!!! I too was taught to shoot by a lady, my Nana a.k.a. grandma/abuelita) and with education in this state.

The urban form still worries me but I see great changes and hope (metro Phoenix is after all more densely populated than metro Seattle, Portland, Dallas, Houston, Denver, etc etc).

The worst commutes in Phoenix are 40 minutes; however, not two hours Mr. Talton, that would put you in Flagstaff or Sedona. Perhaps you were just being facetious or exaggerating on the premise that most still drive in Phoenix? Um, but then that would be every American city outside of New York and describes Seattle better than Phoenix given that two hour commutes are not a facetious fact there; Steilacoom to Seattle is a 2 hour dread many friends make to afford living in the Puget Sound region and don't get me started on Lacey to Bellevue or Seattle.

City commute times aside, Phoenix does lack a national headquarters with the power of BofA or Proctor and Gamble but here I do see some great opportunity for the rise of potential gigantic Phoenix corporate headquarters; the ever growing dominance but still small national presence of First Solar is one great hope.


Avnet another:


While First Solar is based in Tempe, I consider it important because of its investment in renewable energy, its on the light rail line and adjacent to the Phoenix city limits near Sky Harbor and a few miles from downtown. Its largest operations are in Phoenix just south of downtown in the industrial areas offering high skill manufacturing and paying jobs.

What I do not agree with and had me ROFL is the "Brave New World" like description of Arizona because of the new illegal immigration law. I do not see nor foresee the economic fall out that those in "liberal" cities are hoping for or "boycotts of Arizona" that celebrities "add their clout" to! It is all ridiculous and comical. I'm as brown as they come (awaiting Emil questioning my brown-ness again) and am not worried. It seems to me and most that being in the U.S. illegally is much like driving drunk; you take your risk and if you get caught, pay the consequences.

What's the difference between a green uniformed border patrolman asking to see a green card and a Phoenix PD officer whose job is to enforce the law? To me there is not drastic, racist, radical accent in that action. Yet I do question this Arizona state law's ability to stand federal scrutiny. However, what I've personally noticed is that most supporters I've encountered are very much moderate or socially liberal like myself a gay, urban-minded, light rail riding, gun-less Hispanic. There is little international hostility to the law from what I've seen and read in global publications as many nations (including European and Asian countries) have immigration laws that make ours look rather pathetic. Don't get me started on some of the repercussions for illegal immigration in some of those nations either...

Some statements from legal immigrants in an AZ Republic article today (and funny enough, these sentiments are often found in legal Mexican immigrants as well):

"Craig Chenery understands chasing the American dream. It's what brought him to the Valley from a small village in England, propelling him to get permanent residency and work toward citizenship. What he can't understand is why others are so willing to break the law to be here.

"As a legal immigrant, it frustrates me that there is such an illegal problem here," the 35-year-old Avondale resident said."

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/news/election/azelections/articles/2010/04/29/20100429arizona-immigration-law-supporters.html#ixzz0mWHhUwPY

I like the statement in the article about the replacement or a shared national ID/State ID (license). This would end this discussion and infighting. Everyone would therefore be required to show it meaning they would be providing proof of citizenship AND state residency/driving privileges with one stone.

How about allowing state MVD/DMV offices to issue the ID's, school district offices, VA Centers and Regional Offices (for vets, DOD employees, military personnel, etc etc), some Post Offices which can issue "non-driving" ID's, etc. Just a thought...

And Mr. Talton, The Stranger as a stand up, great publication! Wow, really I find that a far stretch when matched up against the Phoenix New Times; the New Times articles are all well written, TRUTHFUL, and thought provoking. Most of what I've read in the radical (even untruthful) Stranger is quite disturbing. Their "non-fictional" piece on Phoenix many years ago was inconsistent, psychotic, and just straight up lies having reported the population of Phoenix declining (in 2001) as a result of a great migration to Seattle (LMAO):


Here is a very disingenuous excerpt that even Mr. Talton would have to call out as a pure lie, maybe I'll post a few:

"Nowhere is there a place not designed strictly for access by car; because of the traffic, tempers run so high the radio advises drivers not to make eye contact with one another lest they get shot." (maybe the columnist had a brain far and confused Phoenix and a story on L.A.???)

"In summer, children who fall on the pavement are hospitalized with third-degree burns from the asphalt." (LMAO)

"And this is why, even after the death of grunge, the dot-com bust, and the Boeing bail, Phoenix residents are fleeing to Seattle."

During the time of this article's publication and the years after, Phoenix's population, unlike Seattle's, exploded and in today's terms is still among the fastest growing. Luckily, this time around, the population isn't heading to the fringes or far suburbs as pointed out by MLS listing and ASU's real estate watchers but into the old city and central regions of the urban area!

And the most laughable, maybe I missed a few, disingenuous "factual" fiction from The Stranger:

"Upon his arrival in Phoenix, co-workers told Yann never to walk west of 35th Avenue, where a quarter of the city lives, largely without streetlights or paved roads, where even buses (which ordinary citizens are afraid to ride) don't run."

Unpaved roads in Phoenix west of 35th Ave??? 35 blocks from downtown's Central Ave! Yes, great reporting! No streetlights or buses? Excuse me valley metro runs bus lines to to every Phoenix city limit and into the suburbs. So only the far right has its liars, pundits, and exaggerators. Only in Seattle, Portland, and maybe San Fran would this b.s. sell!

Jim, I'm afraid I agree with Soleri. It's hard to have a dialogue with people that aren't interested in having one. For years I've had a daily e-mail exchange with old friends still in the Midwest. Most are very conservative. I've spent a lot of time responding in great detail, and civilly, to silly bromides, cutting and pasting links, and generally inviting them to evaluate the data for themselves.

As but one example, I tried to engage a debate about wheter elimination of the estate tax was necesasry to save family farms, or rather an excuse to give lots of money to about 3,200 very wealthy families. It finally dawned on me, after my detailed critique went ignored for the 1,000th time, that many in the right aren't interested in a dialogue. You may trigger a verbal or written response, often parroting whatever the latest GOP/Fox talking point is. But that's not half of a dialogue. It's an expression of tribal solidarity, no different in kind than "Wolverines"!

How do you have a poitical dialogue with those who not only refuse to acknowledge the facts, but also refuse to modify their position when the admit their facts are wrong? Many on the riggt hold political positions that are impervious to change, even if the underlying factual assumptions are brushed away.



I remember this article in The Stranger because I remember being handed the article from a friend in Seattle since I was the lone Phoenix native at the office. They all came to me, intervention style, dough eyed, with "now we know why you came to Seattle" expressions of pity." As I read the article I was laughing uncontrollably thinking, "this MUST be a parody on someone's experience, an exaggeration on some bad experience."

As I laughed I explained, or tried to, the fiction the piece was but not sure I got through. I've noticed Seattlites have to find deficiencies in other cities. Not sure why but the same is true of Portlanders (not Maine). I can only chalk it up to the gloomy skies, drizzle, cold and damp depression of everyday life there. Oh no, maybe the sunshine has gotten to me... :-) NAH!

PHXsunsFan, I love the desert, the sun, and even the summers here. But Phoenix is not a city like Portland or Seattle. It has very few walkable neighborhoods, no genuine urban pulse, no downtown except for the ceremonial one that's mysteriously empty of street life and retail. Worse, Phoenix makes no attempt to see itself beyond "more of the same". There's no ongoing discussion about sustainability issues or creative dialogue about urban options. We're locked into a paradigm and there's no getting out of it.

I'm a native, so this matters to me. I remember when all the major retail, movie theaters, and excitement was downtown. I recall, remorsefully, how that began withering away in the 1960s and fully expired by the early 80s. Phoenix is not better for being sprawled out and incoherent. It's much worse. Maybe you're too young to care about this so it's a moot point to you. But really creative places have energy and edginess. I can't think of a less edgy city than Phoenix (unless it's the dystopian kind of edginess composed of crime scenes and police chases).

It genuinely puzzles me how any literate and sensitive person would prefer the sameness of franchised retail and drive-by architecture. There are good things here, but they're so buried in the overall dreck that it's like a scavenger hunt to find them. A city shouldn't be a collection of isolated jewels. It should be wonderful in itself, lovely, interconnected and interwoven. It should manifest these qualities not as a decorations or designer touches but as its very reason for being. Because without it, life isn't really wonderful or even sane.

Two words: Shields and Brooks.
Fridays @6:30 PM on PBS.
Reasoned dialog showing how we can disagree and still be agreeable. To me, they are a model.

PHXsunsFan wrote:

"However, what I've personally noticed is that most supporters I've encountered are very much moderate or socially liberal like myself a gay, urban-minded, light rail riding, gun-less Hispanic."

Huh? Most supporters of Arizona's radical new anti-immigration law are "very much moderate or liberal"? And the individual who wrote this is a "gay, urban-minded, light-rail riding, gun-less Hispanic"?

"...awaiting Emil questioning my brown-ness again..."


You know, the more I read PHXsunsFan's comments in this thread, the more I am reminded of a similar writer here, "Cisco Corrales". Anybody remember that "I'm a big-liberal-fan-of-yours-but-I-vehemently-condemn-nearly-everything-you-write-about-Phoenix-and-Arizona-Mr.-Talton" guy?

Interestingly enough, Arizona may be shooting itself in the foot with its new law in an even bigger way that had previously been thought.

A recent Arizona Republic article buried in the Business section noted that ICE just finished random audits of 18,000 workers employed by private companies in the state. (Yeah, the feds are really sitting on their duffs, aren't they Mr. MacEachern?)

ICE actually refused to say how many of the workers were found to be illegal, but the figure nationally is running at 18 percent. Just imagine what it is in Arizona if that's the national average, given Arizona's higher than average illegal population!


Meanwhile on the economic homefront, another Business section article notes that half of the total jobs lost in the state since the recession started were lost in 2009.

"PetSmart had 47,000 online resumes submitted for 256 positions it advertised last year at its corporate headquarters in Phoenix...PetSmart ended up filling many of those positions through internal promotions and hired 151 people from the outside."


Meanwhile, a new RAND Corp. study projects the percentage of Americans over 65 who remain in or are forced to rejoin the workforce will climb to 25 percent this year from 17 percent in 1990, and expects this trend to continue "at least until 2030".


But where are the jobs, in Arizona? Hey, maybe the jobs vacated by all those fleeing Hispanics will be taken by Sun City residents?! Looking forward to seeing Mr. Humperdinck learning the art of weed-wacking (I'm guessing it'll be a slow learning-curve.) If not, expect the state's economy to tank even worse.

I can't go there with you, Jim. The colloqui between Emil and PHXsunsFan is more enlightening, and still civil, than what happens with Shields and Brooks. David Brooks is the "nice conservative" that liberals like. But he's either willfully ignorant or a tool. He went to Verrado and proclaimed it the future, with no sense of the infrastructure, energy or water issues these developments face. He's the predictable apologist for suburbia. Has he ever ventured intellectually outside his leafy Beltway suburb beyond going into the nicest parts of D.C. or New York? He laments the loss of civility or selflessness etc. without ever putting a mirror up to the extreme right-wing policies that caused these ills. His occasional trip off the reservation is unconvincing. Christopher Buckley or Paul Craig Roberts are more honest. And how often do Shields and Brooks ever get at the real issues that will dominate our future, such as peak oil or climate change, besides the political-sportscaster nonsense? This is why my meme is: "David Brooks is an idiot."

You say "Arizona Crazy" ???

We just passed a ban on animal-human hybrids.

So there you go Jon. That shows you.

I demand an apology.

A lot has been said in response to Mr. Hamblin's question: it was well said and much of it I agree with.

I agree that those drawn toward participation in such discussion groups generally already occupy the "middle-ground" (though a few may be infiltrators looking to influence and manipulate such a group or to disrupt it if this is not possible); however, the very act of social interaction, open discussions, and the free (but presumably civil) exchange of ideas may be salubrious for the participants. Eventually such groups might explore possibilities which they originally did not even perceive the existence of.

As for the rest, I think that a delicate balance must be struck between realism and cynicism. While some of those who hold strongly opposing views are motivated by irreconcilable personal values which cannot be corrected by rational discourse, others are simply ignorant and conditioned by misinformation.

The conditioning aspect of it is important to remember, because if you hear something factual and rational only 1 time out of 100, you may have difficulty absorbing this minority viewpoint.

Nobody has enough time to argue with all the knuckleheads out there. Instead, I'm inclined to support a targeted approach which responds to opinion-makers in the media. After all, they influence thousands, so just sowing doubts in the mind of one can repay you manifold. Maybe they won't write a column arguing your side like converts; but perhaps they won't be as inclined to uncritically pass on the same old nonsense from right-wing paper mills which continually passes over their transoms.

Don't just "preach to the faithful" (though god knows that the faithful need support given the general media environment they too are subject to.) Take the time, if only occasionally, to interrupt the dynamic whereby local columnists are insidiously moved to the right by the incessant drumbeat of kook opinion. Reply both publicly and by email when possible. (Local columnists are more likely to read email than big national columnists who employ screeners.)

Then, share a copy when possible with progressive audiences (say, as a comment to Rogue Columnist if and when it fits the topic), who may find your comments refreshing and inspiring. This way, you kill two birds with one stone and the effort won't be wasted even if it fails on the diplomatic front. Also, the effort could be personally productive if the challenge motivates you to research, clarify, refine, and prove your own opinion. It's important to have recourse to well-documented facts when attempting to influence journalists and opinion writers, especially when their own prejudices take them in a different direction.

Regarding the concept of "moderation", don't forget that the balance point depends upon the preponderance of public opinion to begin with. This may be based on common sense but it may also be the result of social conditioning applicable to a given place and time.

At the time of the Lincoln/Douglas debates, abolitionism was a radical, not a moderate position. (It was not represented in the debate by either candidate.) Women did not have the right to vote until the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920. In the period leading up to this, the fight for women's suffrage was led by radicals and marked by violent mass protests. The same is true of many basic human and labor rights once considered immoderate but now commonly accepted.

Some other developments relating to Arizona's economic and political problems:

The Arizona Department of Commerce (you know, the one which conservatives want to axe) has just issued a revised forecast predicting the loss of more than 50,000 jobs this year. It predicts a gain of 23,000 jobs in 2011 but half of those are expected to be temporary or contract labor.


Further out, ASU economist Lee McPheters forecasts sunny economic skies for Arizona, predicting that in three to five years Arizona will be among the top five states for job creation. However, the interview gives no explanation for this optimism. (If anyone has more detail, please post it.)


About 60 percent of Arizonans receiving unemployment benefits have been out of work for more than 26 weeks and are receiving extended federal benefits.

The MAXIMUM weekly benefit in Arizona is $240. The state Department of Economic Security currently processes 10,000 to 11,000 new claims for unemployment benefits per week: down from the peak of 12,000 but three to four times the pre-recession rate.


Regarding First Solar, its stock is widely viewed as overpriced, in light of the fact that most of its sales are to Germany, which plans to cut its solar subsidies this summer. Though the company is "expanding its customer base within other European countries and the U.S." some analysts are not so sanguine:

""We do not see how possible cuts in demand in Germany will be offset by increases elsewhere," Wunderlich Securities Inc. analyst Theodore O'Neill wrote Thursday.

"Wunderlich rates the stock as a "sell" with a target price of $90. "


Once again, you show your generosity by omitting the 'r' from the second position of "Kookocracy".

"PHXsunsFan" wrote:

"The worst commutes in Phoenix are 40 minutes; however, not two hours Mr. Talton..."

There are plenty of commutes that routinely take more than 40 minutes one-way; and there are some long ones that take nearly two hours. Gilbert (at Power Rd. & Queek Creek Rd.) to downtown, during rush-hour, is a 75 minute drive. Gold Canyon to central Phoenix is a 90 minute rush-hour drive. Extend the latter to downtown and you might see two hours.


"What's the difference between a green uniformed border patrolman asking to see a green card and a Phoenix PD officer whose job is to enforce the law?"

Plenty. First, green uniformed border patrolmen don't have a right to ask American citizens for their papers. You must be thinking of the Volkspolizei. Why should Hispanic-looking Phoenix residents (many of whom are citizens) have to prove to anyone that they belong here? If a policeman or DPS officer pulls over a car because of traffic violations, he already has a right to check for a driver's license. After all, that's a legal requirement of driving, as is insurance and registration.

Also note that illegal aliens with fake or stolen identities might have drivers licenses issued by the state. Having a driver's license isn't proof of naturalization status in any real sense, so why does the law pretend that it is, unless it's simply trying to pander to nativist sensibilities? The illegal aliens without driver's licenses aren't generally going to be driving anyway, they're going to be riding the bus.

If your answer is that you can nab them as pedestrians, note that not everybody chooses to carry their driver's license when going for a jog or playing basketball at the local park, etc., yet the law allows them to be detained until their naturalization status can be established.

Second, why should local taxpayer dollars be used to enforce federal civil law? Why should local law enforcement resources be squandered on your pet peeve when there are real criminals to be caught? You can't do everything: there isn't enough money or manpower.

Third, why should the police have to worry about the legal headache of being sued by citizens if they enforce the law, and sued by meddlesome busybodies if they don't (or don't to someone's arbitrary satisfaction)?

"I like the statement in the article about the replacement or a shared national ID/State ID (license). This would end this discussion and infighting. Everyone would therefore be required to show it meaning they would be providing proof of citizenship AND state residency/driving privileges with one stone."

I'm having trouble parsing this. I also don't see any "discussion in the article" hyperlinked to about this issue.

I remain convinced that David Brooks and Mark Shields' dialog can serve as a model for intelligent discourse on controversial subjects.

Jon has the hard eye out for Brooks because David can be easily duped by sprawl barons and others who slather him with right wing ju ju. The fact remains that his STYLE is that of an engaged listener. There are too few out there like him . . he gets lots of public attention and does more good than harm.

Jim - "style" has gotten the country into the mess we're in. Substance is what's needed.

More landmark legislation from Arizona:

"Senate Bill 1307, which bans human-animal hybrids. It won narrow approval in both chambers of the Legislature this week. Opponents ridiculed its attempt to legislate actions that they say have no foundation in reality, with Democrats cracking jokes about minotaurs and mermaids.

"But proponents, such as Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy, said there is evidence that such activities have been happening in Europe, and they want to prevent that from coming to Arizona."


(See the sidebar "Other bills")

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