Saturday, November 26, 2005

Arizona Voter Registration

A story in this morning’s Arizona Daily Star raises the question of possible disenfranchisement of Arizona voters who depend on their driver’s licenses to establish citizenship when they appear at the polls to vote. The problem is in Arizona’s Proposition 200.

“Under Proposition 200, anyone registering to vote must provide proof of citizenship. The most popular form is usually an Arizona driver's license issued after Oct. 1, 1996, when the state began demanding evidence of legal U.S. residency to get a license.”—Arizona Daily Star

Now I have two problems with this story. First, mere legal residency is not a sufficient condition for voting. (I guess obviously…Green Card holders are legal residents but not voters). Did the law require proof of legal residency, or of citizenship?

I checked my license…which is dated 06/15/05. Can I use this to “prove” eligibility to vote? Hardly. My first license was granted in 1973. I was not asked about citizenship then; I have never been asked about my citizenship since.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Arizona Republican Jim Kolbe Packs it In

It was announced today that the Congressional race in Arizona's 8th Congressional District will officially become - HooHaw! A mad house! With Kolbe out of the game the mad scramble will begin. On the Dem's side look for Gaby Giffords to toss her hat in the ring, along with Shacter and Latas. Republicans? Well, Randy Graff for sure...and maybe Toni Hellon will deep six her primary battle with Huffman and run for the big time.

Ah, we live in interesting times.


I have been the victim lately of what Anthony Powell once called “A Dance to The Music of Time”…the kaleidoscopic shifting of relations between people and projects over time. It seems to me that I have been whirled around my life’s ballroom in ways I have not entirely controlled. It’s been very distracting. It’s slowed down my writing.

One of the distractions has been the re-birth of forum participation.The Arizona Daily Star has revived its on line public forums, whirling me back to the first great days of the StarNet forums under Bob Cauthorn.

At the moment there are only 200 folks registered, where registration is required for full participation. Of those two hundred only a large handful are actually engaged, but those who are posting regularly are having some interesting exchanges. I must say that the whole scene seems much more active than the blogosphere…and in some ways more fun.

We’ve had one troll, who ducked in and out of the forums with a couple of name changes, but most folks did not rise to the bait. I imagine he’ll be back, when it gets lonesome under his bridge.

At any rate I’ve been spending more time attending to the forums than to the blog. What goes on is probably of more interest to Tucsonans than to others…but take a look. Register even…it’s free. Link

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Shacter Declares for Arizona CD 8 Run

Another hat in the ring: Francine Shacter, who declared her candidacy less than two weeks ago. She wants a shot at unseating Republican incumbent Jim Kolbe and joins Democrat Jeff Latas in the primary race.

I met Ms Shacter at a precinct meeting recently and if nothing else she impressed me as a woman of bulldog tenacity. She has met with Democratic Party county chairman Paul Eckerstrom and with Pamela Sutherland, the “honcha” of Arizona List. (AL is devoted to getting pro-choice Democratic women elected.)

Shacter said that she was courteously received by Eckerstrom, but was left with the feeling that ‘the party’ had already decided that Latas should be the candidate. In the discussion with Sutherland Ms Shacter was reminded that although it was not a requirement the D-Triple-C, (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) believed that candidate ‘viability’ could best be demonstrated by raising 100 Grand by December 31. She has confidence that she can.

Ms Shacter has a long record of government service and Democratic Party activism. Latas may find her a hard nut to crack.

Her website is here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A Call to Arizona Progressives

The Arizona Daily Star has revived its free on-line forums and they provide an excellent venue for spreading discussion of progressive political issues.

They provide something else as well…a place that offers a link to your blog. When you register (free) you also have the option of listing your blog. You’ll notice that The Data Port and Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion have already done so.This is a good way to increase your reach and readership.

You’ll also notice that I have launched a discussion of the state of healthcare in the United States. At the moment that discussion has reached something of a dead end with two of the major participants butting heads from what are essentially irreconcilable political positions. You are welcome to join in.

Inveterate bloggers may have forgotten the value of forums of this sort, but they attract readers and participants who may not be part of the blogosphere.

Take a look at the “Star’s” forums. Join in. link

Watching Tucson's "Star"

Tucsonans and other Baja Arizonans following the twists and turns of management at the Arizona Daily Star should take a look at Walt Nett’s latest Media Watch column.

Some months ago the Star was purchased by Lee Enterprises and David Stoeffler came on board as editor. He resigned after about six months, but Nett gives him fairly high marks and comments on possible successors.

What particularly caught my eye was that Lee, which also owns the once great St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has been RIFing (RIF=Reduction in Force) employees; among them 41 newsroom employees. P-D Editor Ellen Soeteber resigned, and Nett suggests that the resignation was connected to the newsroom reduction.

I wonder what’s in store for the Star?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Two Blogs…One Old Friend, One Newcomer.

I regularly read David Kaiser’s long, thoughtful, blog History Unfolding. The Data Port has carried a link to it for a number of months and I hope that some visitors here have found time to visit it. If you haven’t, you should.

Kaiser describes his posts as: “A historian's comments on current events, foreign and domestic.” The articles in History Unfolding are longer than most blog posts. They are more like the pieces you are likely to read in the New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, or
The NY Times Magazine.

The articles are well worth both your time and your attention. The current offering, titled Information Warfare at the White House, raises the question “whether America can in fact be governed by an Administration that refuses to admit basic facts both about what it is doing, and what is happening in the world.”

The Newcomer

The Newcomer is the blog for “Voices,” which is all about the writing and photography of a group of young men and women (sorry, I refuse to call them ‘kids’) who annually publish the magazine 110 Degrees devoted to telling stories, past and present, of the Tucson community.

A new staff comes on board at the start of each year. Along with them comes a group of volunteer mentors in writing and photography. I was fortunate to be one of that group last year and am looking forward to doing it again this year.

Check out the blog here.
Read past stories from 110 Degrees here.
Read about 110 Degrees here.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Tucson: Time to Write Kolbe

Peristaltic waves of common sense seem to be passing through the ranks of Congressional Republicans, who yesterday resisted the conservative plan to lower taxes on the rich while cutting programs and services that serve the less well to do.

In case you missed it, the Star's coverage is here.
More detailed coverage is in the Washington Post. (Free registration required)

I don’t know if Republican Jim Kolbe…one of Tucson’s two congressmen… was in the ranks of Republican foot-draggers, but it’s a position we should certainly encourage him to adopt.

There would be some point in (politely) reminding him that last Tuesday’s Democratic victory was due in part to annoyed Republican voters not going to the polls. That sort of behavior could well carry over into the next congressional elections. I’ve spoken to Tucson Republicans who are extremely unhappy with the administration, although loath to comment too publicly.

You can e-mail Kolbe by clicking here. Kolbe’s Tucson office phone number is: 520-881-3588

Armistice Day

It was the "War to End War" and it was the war to "Make the World Safe for Democracy." It ended at eleven o’clock in the morning on the eleventh day of November in 1918.

Until wars to come transformed Armistice Day into Veterans Day, Americans across the nation stopped whatever they were doing—in businesses, or stores, or schools—at eleven o’clock and observed a minute of silence. I remember one Armistice day when I was in Chicago’s Marshall Field’s department store with my mother. A bell rang and the whole great building hushed and was still.

I have always thought that moment of silence was a fitting way to honor sacrifice and express a devotion to peace. Our parades and celebrations are certainly fitting and proper… but wouldn’t it be wonderful if once again at eleven o’clock in the morning that great and reverential quiet could roll across the country.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Democrats Sweep Tucson Elections

Tucson is the urban center of a metropolitan area that will push to a population of one million before the next census. In the city of Tucson there are 248,777 eligible voters yet slightly less than 22% of them actually voted, and half of those voted by mail.

We often decry this low level of voter participation, but I wonder if it really makes any difference to the quality of government we get. This may be heresy, but might it possibly be the case that low turnout gives us better government?

After all, the people who vote are the political activists, the politically engaged, people who are well enough informed to have some understanding of the candidates and issues.

Being Paid To Vote

There may be an initiative on the ballot in 2006 that will pay eligible voters to vote. Every voter will be given a lottery ticket. Such a deal--- but do we really want this? “Whodja vote for?” …”Who knows, but I got my ticket.”

Vote by Mail

Talked to Tucson city councilman Leal last night. Look for him to try move the city to an all-vote-by-mail policy. It cost Tucson a half million dollars to open the polls yesterday.

It would certainly save the city money, but it does make elections more expensive for the parties, so in one sense you are just shifting the costs.

On a purely personal note I would be sorry not to be able to go to the polling place to vote. It always seems to me that actually going to the polls, seeing my neighbors, marking a ballot in the privacy of the voting booth, was a kind of public affirmation of my belief in the system.

Monday, November 07, 2005

National Health Insurance

Paul Krugman’s column in today’s NY Times makes some interesting points about Americans' health care. Fewer companies are providing workers’ health benefits and those that do are reducing them. Krugman says it’s plain that the only solution to our growing health care crisis is national health insurance, but..

"…to see the obvious we'll have to overcome pride - the unwarranted belief that America has nothing to learn from other countries - and prejudice - the equally unwarranted belief, driven by ideology, that private insurance is more efficient than public insurance.

"Let's start with the fact that America's health care system spends more, for worse results, than that of any other advanced country.

"In 2002 the United States spent $5,267 per person on health care. Canada spent $2,931; Germany spent $2,817; Britain spent only $2,160. Yet the United States has lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than any of these countries.

"Above all, Americans are far more likely than others to forgo treatment because they can't afford it. Forty percent of the Americans surveyed failed to fill a prescription because of cost. A third were deterred by cost from seeing a doctor when sick or from getting recommended tests or follow-up...and our fragmented system is unable to bargain with drug companies and other suppliers for lower prices."

Yeah...National Health is great idea but I'll probably die on the couch before the bought-and-sold Congress stands up to the Insurance Industry.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Cost

Yesterday the Arizona Daily Star reported the human cost in American lives of the war in Iraq.

Dead: 2,022
Wounded: 15,477

Iraqi casualties? Women, Children, Insurgents, Innocent by-standers? Sorry, we don’t keep a count of those. The only records are occasional pictures of survivors’ tear-stained faces.

I have withdrawn from all debates about weapons of mass destruction, liars in office, smoking guns, or shameful and deceitful bullying by high officials. I’m beyond caring about any of that. I am left, as are all of you, clasping the Iraqi tar baby to my breast; and I am left with a kind of aching puzzlement:

Has the sacrifice of 2,022 young men and women, and the wounding (some of it savage) of 15,477 others been worth it? What have we gained as a nation? Safety?… The friendship and respect of other nations?…Oil?…Anything?

I would love to hear from anyone who believes that this war has been anything but a meaningless failure, anyone who believes that the 2022 have not simply been thrown away for nothing. Like many other families in America we are closely connected to two servicemen. They are in harm’s way; they are courageous and patriotic; and I would like to know from someone why, if they should become statistics, their sacrifices wouldn’t be an idiotic, meaningless waste.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

An Anti-War Sign

I saw it in Tucson. It was hand lettered and took up not quite half of a car’s rear window. It had been written with magic marker and although it was perfectly legible there was a spontaneous, free-hand feel to the lettering. It was as if the writer could hardly wait to give expression to outrage. The sign simply said:


Too Many

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Catching Up

A lot of this to do. Let’s begin by noting Starnet’s new design, which is certainly a step in the right direction. If you are reading this out of town you should know that this is the web site for Tucson’s morning paper, The Arizona Daily Star.

The Star, under the leadership of Robert Cauthorn, was one of the first daily papers to float itself on line. The initial look was elegant and simple. With the passage of time the look became cluttered and jittery. John Bolton’s new offering, while fairly complicated, is a great improvement.

I would be happy to pay for access, if I could have the content either ad free, or with substantially reduce advertising. Still, it would be graceless of us who have been pretty critical of the look not to wait to see how it all works.

Thanks, John.

Lost Wages

I spent the last weekend in one of my favorite places, America’s most American city: Las Vegas. I know this comment really twists some folks’s knickers, but the sheer audacity of the place seems perfectly American to me. A replica New York; the Luxor pyramid; Paris with one leg of the Eiffel tower piercing a hotel and casino; fantasy and make believe.

Another Very American Experience

On the drive home we pulled off the interstate just south of Phoenix to hit a Mickey D’s…the rest stop of choice for a pee and a Senior Coffee. While we were there dosing on fries and salt a homeless man walked in, talking loudly to himself about Columbus and the fact that you had to be an officer in the Spanish Army to be one of Columbus’ company.

He bought a large coffee and shuffled out on “shoes” that seemed to be held together by ragged socks. His clothes were not just old and dirty, they were an assemblage of rags. He was clearly “disturbed.” Disturbed, hell, he was as unbalanced as the national budget. Was he ‘happy?’ Enjoying his life? God only knows, but God, if there is one, probably weeps to think that one of his creatures is not better cared for by the rest of us. Surely this man deserved some modest care from the rest of us…some place to camp, to bathe, to receive rudimentary care and shelter.

I thought that this too was, sadly, a very American experience.