Sunday, August 01, 2010

More Republican Infighting

Over in Jim Kelly’s cactus patch I read that Jim Deakin may be losing his home. This is a serious enough fault, apparently, to occasion a continuing rant against Deakin’s candidacy for the Republican senatorial nomination.

In fairness to the prickly one he does go on to sympathize with Deakin for the loss of his home.

Wait a that a tear in the crocodile’s eye?

For earlier comments on political hit pieces click here.

CrossPosted from:

Friday, July 30, 2010

WikiLeaks and the Afghan War

It’s been five days since WikiLeaks released the raw intelligence data about the Afghan war.

If you are a true political junky you have probably devoured the reportage by The NY Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel. If you’ve missed any of it I suggest you visit those sites and get caught up. Links below.

There are two questions that can be asked about this huge data dump: Has it done any harm and does it tell us anything about the progress of the war that we (as citizens here at home) didn’t already know?

Let’s talk about the possible damage. On this issue Don Smith, over at Fort Buckley, makes an excellent point. The data dumps revealed the names of numerous Afghan informants upon whom our forces relied. Those informants were ordinary Afghanis and not part of the Afghan government, police, political officials.

They have now been put in harm’s way and, worse, their reasonable expectation of confidentiality has been damaged...with the result that informants will be less likely to come forward in the future.

It’s argued by some that another source of damage is the fact that these reports reveal something about the response tactics of our forces; something that the Taliban somehow didn’t know. It’s not clear to me that this could be true, since the Taliban have been on the receiving end of those tactics and they’re not dummies.

So what do we at home know that’s new, really new? Not much, with the possible exception of the fact that the enemy now has heat-seeking missiles with which to bring down helicopters. I imagine they’re a bit more sophisticated than the weapons we gave the Mujahidin with which to torment the Russian bear.

For the rest of it, all the leaks do is confirm what we might already have assumed from news reports:

The Taliban are skilled guerilla fighters, whose mobility allows them to offset some of the advantages of heavily mechanized armies. Like all guerilla forces they have the advantage of invisibility, able to melt into the population, like fish in the ocean.

The Afghanis have apparently no real sense of “Nationhood.” Afghanistan is essentially a collection of tribal fiefdoms in which corruption (or what we recognize as corruption) is simply what they recognize as common practice.

Corruption is so commonplace that it became fodder for an American comic strip. Trudeau (Doonesbury) spent a week describing an Afghan commander and his soldiers systematically disassembling an army post and selling it off piecemeal.

Civilian deaths do us no good, and there have been a number of them. I believe that we have made every effort to avoid them. However, in the fog of war, especially in the sort of guerilla war that is Afghanistan, face this fact: These deaths are tragic, but unavoidable.

To the extent that we, as American citizens, continue to support this war, or fail to oppose it, the responsibility for those deaths are yours and mine

Finally, something we knew but didn’t want to face: It is cheaper for the Taliban to fight us than it is for us to fight them. The latest supplemental war funding bill was a shade less than 59 billion dollars. That’s 59,000 million dollars. Since we are planning to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan that figures to almost 2 million dollars a soldier.

Perhaps it’s time for us, as citizens, as voters, to discuss what we really want to do about this war. Nine years is a long time; 1215 deaths and 6773 casualties is a high cost in human suffering; 90 billion dollars (Heritage Foundation estimate through 2010) is a lot of money.

Does the present state of the Afghan war represent success or failure? Ultimately it’s our call.

Here are some links:

Der Spiegel

The Guardian

NY Times

Fort Buckley

Re-posted from Http://

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Political Hit Pieces

I’m a big fan of the rough-and-tumble of political debates. When debate becomes character assassination I worry about the consequences for the health of our political system.

I’m sorry, but I’ve about had it with the repeated mailings from the McCain campaign about JD Hayworth. Now I happen to believe that Hayworth has the heart of a scoundrel; but I also believe that once McCain has pointed this out he should move on to outlining plans and programs for the next six years.

Assuming he’s elected, that is...and the rancorous progress of the Republican primary makes that less likely. How many Independents and quietly middle of the road Republicans are going to swallow McCain’s avidity for office? His rejection of hands-across-the aisle cooperation with Democrats in the interest of what’s good for the nation? The loss of his fabled status as a “maverick?” Your guess is as good as mine.

By the same token he has probably put paid to Hayworth’s chances, which leaves the Republican Party in bad shape.

And what about the third wheel in the campaign, Jim Deakin? He’s despised by the Hayworth supporters, because they are afraid he will take votes from Hayworth and hand the primary to McCain.

Frankly I can’t see a nickel’s worth of difference between the Tea Party convictions of any of them. Why not vote for Deakin?

The Tea Party conservatives are as interested in defeating McCain (in the primary) as his potential Democratic opponents would be (in the general.) For the sake of defeating McCain they are willing to risk sacrificing a Senate seat.

Before this primary season I’d have bet the farm on the proposition that no Democrat would be able to defeat McCain. But now the Democrats have a field of talented and aggressive candidates, any one of whom could defeat Hayworth or Deakin; and any one of whom stands a great chance of beating McCain, should he survive the primary.

Hard times ahead for the Republican Party.

Cross-posted to

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Primary Early Voting Begins Thursday

(Independents Welcome)

Not that anyone will notice, since that’s the day when SB 1070 becomes active and we’ll all be riveted by the events of the day. Still, the events surrounding “1070 Day” may wake you from political lethargy to the point that you’d want to vote.

It’s important to remember that Independents may vote in any of the four primaries...Republican, Democratic, Green or Libertarian. All you have to do is ask.

There are plenty of reasons for Independents to shoulder in to one of the four primaries. If there are no contests in the party you secretly favor you may want to nip over into the opposition primary and vote for the “weakest” opposition candidate.

Of course you may secretly favor a party in which there are a number of contestants in a race and you want to vote for your favorite.

Don’t forget there are races for more than state and national legislators. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Corporation Commission, among others. You may want to cast a ballot to deny some whacko a chance of election.

During early voting there are two ways of requesting an early ballot.

You may contact the Pima County Recorder on line and request an early ballot. To do that, click here.


You may also request a ballot by phone: 520-740-4330

If you would prefer to cast a ballot in person a number of polling places will be available. These are listed here, click.


Cross-Posted from

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Concealed Carry

I don’t really have a dog in this fight. Back in my pistol-shooting days I’d just drop my holstered weapon into a saddle bag and ride off; but I’m not shooting any longer.

As I’ve aged I do occasionally carry a walking stick and I wonder if now I might not carry my quite elegant sword cane. Clearly a weapon and clearly concealed.

Perhaps it was the coming change in our laws that helped call attention to the bumper sticker I saw yesterday:

Armed and Uneducated

Reposted from The Data Port at

Thursday, April 01, 2010

April's Fools

Yesterday the Republican majority in the state legislature voted to join 14 other states in a courageous battle to keep health care for Arizonans from being forced down their throats.

Here are some examples of the incisive Republican analysis of the dangers of health care reform, as reported in the Arizona Republic:

Rep. Ray Barnes, R-Phoenix, said the health-care law is a death sentence for elderly Americans because, he predicted, it will lead to rationed care.

Apparently Barnes wants to return to the good old days when 30 million Americans had their health care rationed into near non-existence by their inability to buy insurance.

"This really is about much more than health care, and much more than cost," said House Health Committee Chairwoman Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix. "It's about freedom."

The federal law, she said, gives Washington, D.C., complete control of health-care decisions.

No...federal law leaves almost complete control of health-care decisions in the hands of the insurance industry.

The loopiest justification of the the proposed legal attack on health care reform comes from Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise:

“We're seeking to protect the citizens from this unconstitutional socialism that is under way. The socialists of today are only a gun confiscation away from the communists of tomorrow.”

Wow! How’s that for a slippery slope? Insurance by private gun communism.

Oh, comrades, if only it were that simple.

Cross Posted from

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Short Note on Coffee

I’ve just finished reading “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” and “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” the first two novels in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium-series trilogy about Lisbeth Salander.

Assuming that Larsson’s picture of daily life in Sweden is true, the Swedes are close to the world’s champion coffee drinkers. Of course it may be that a world filled with journalists, cops, and a quirky little girl hacker...the fascinating Lisbeth Salander...isn’t perfectly reflective of the quotidian life of the average Swede. But I don’t think so.

I’ve always thought that Americans were the most devoted coffee drinkers, but the United States annually consumes 4.2 kilograms of coffee per capita; the Swedes top out at 8.2 kilograms per capita. (Incidentally the Finns seem to be the champs, at 12 Kilograms per person...I wonder why.)

Still, we undoubtedly do a lot coffee drinking and that makes me wonder why so much of it is so bad. It’s heresy, I know, but we drink an awful lot of bad coffee...a kind of watery brown fluid which you might not recognize as coffee blindfolded. A decent cup of restaurant coffee is rare.

One reason may be that we make our coffee too weak, which might explain why Swedes apparently use twice as much coffee in their cup of Joe as we do. And why devoted coffee drinkers go to specialty coffee houses.

Fun coffee statistics here

Read about Stieg Larsson here.

Cross Posted from Tucson Citizen

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Protests at Giffords’ District 8 Office

The folks who are absolutely enchanted with their current health care plans are out in force jamming the phone lines, honking horns and demanding that things remain exactly as they are.

God help any member of Congress who tampers with the wonderfulness of things as they are! I’m sure they believe that such rational arguments as horn honks and sign waving are going to change someone’s mind.

I know it’s small-minded of me, but I’d like to know exactly what it is about the current state of health insurance that they love.

Is it being denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions? Is it having insurance arbitrarily cancelled? Oh, I bet it’s the “donut hole” in their drug coverage. You know, the time you have to pay full-pop for your drugs.

If they’re self-employed, or don’t have insurance with their jobs, I guess they don’t want to have tax credits for the health insurance they buy for themselves. Having tax credits ‘forced down their throats’ would be simply dreadful. And of course it would be terrible to be able to keep their kids on their health insurance until the kids were out in the job market and getting their own insurance.

Cross-posted to Tucson Citizen.

Blogging Thru A Glass Darkly

In my own case, thru vision changes following cataract surgery, which gave with one hand while it took away with the other. It meant that for a while my computer keyboard looked like it was being viewed trough the bottom of a Coca Cola bottle. That, and not boredom, explains a light writing schedule here at the Data Port.

Happily things are on the mend.

House keeping note: The Data Port is cross-posted from the Tucson Citizen.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Democrats and Republicans: Living in Different Universes

In today’s NY Times column Paul Krugman takes a quick look back at the Jim Bunning (R-Kentucky) delay of the extension of unemployment benefits; and to our own Jon Kyl’s well-reported case of foot-in-mouth disease.

His conclusion is that the gap between the intellectual and moral universes of the two parties, however it has come about, is so great that it puts paid to the possibility of bi-partisanship.

Once again Kyl illustrates the difference. Krugman writes:

Consider, in particular, the position that Mr. Kyl has taken on a proposed bill that would extend unemployment benefits and health insurance subsidies for the jobless for the rest of the year. Republicans will block that bill, said Mr. Kyl, unless they get a “path forward fairly soon” on the estate tax.

Now, the House has already passed a bill that, by exempting the assets of couples up to $7 million, would leave 99.75 percent of estates tax-free. But that doesn’t seem to be enough for Mr. Kyl; he’s willing to hold up desperately needed aid to the unemployed on behalf of the remaining 0.25 percent. That’s a very clear statement of priorities.

Read Krugman Here


Meanwhile, up at the state legislature, the Solons have struck another blow for the well to do. They have rejected the idea of limiting tax-credited gifts to private and parochial schools to poor and middle income families.

Well, hey, that’s fair isn’t it? Just because we can afford to give a thousand bucks to the grandkids’ private school why should we be denied our thousand buck credit against state income taxes?

As the law now stands I can “recommend” that my gift be for the benefit of a particular child. Lawmakers rejected a proposal to outlaw this practice.

This whole tax-credit hustle steals funding from the state budget that ought go to the improvement of public education.

This subtle shift from public to private education simply means that we are moving toward a two-tiered education system: Education for the rich and education for the poor.

(Cross-posted from

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Arizona Senate Votes to Lease State Parks

As a strategy to avoid closing state parks the Senate has okayed a bill to lease state parks to private concessionaires.

In addition to enabling the leasing of state parks the bill outlines what may be in the proposals submitted by potential vendors:

Requests for proposals shall be broadly construed to allow for:

1. One hundred per cent privately funded parks through contributions, fees or corporate sponsorships.

2. Facility enhancements, including lodging facilities, retail facilities, equipment rentals and amusement facilities.

3. The management of multiple park facilities.

4. Changing the purpose or function of an existing state park.

5. Any other innovation that facilitates the mission of a

publicly-owned park.

Note that there is no requirement that current entrance fees remain the same...and who would expect it? It was expensive building that hotel and amusement facility. Need to change the purpose or function of an existing state park? Make us an offer we can’t refuse.

Now that the beast is dying we can lop off its more attractive parts and lease them to corporate America.

Text of Senate Bill 1349.

(Cross-Posted from

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Pandora Founder To Be in Tucson Sunday

Tim Westergren (left) will be holding free a meet-up at the Rialto Theater on Sunday, March 7th, starting at 5:00 pm.

According to his e-mailed press release: "It'll be a very informal gathering. I'll share some Pandora history, some background on the Music Genome Project and talk about what's ahead for Pandora. 2010 is already shaping up to be quite a year, so there's a lot to talk about!"

Last month I wrote an enthusiastic note about Pandora, the internet radio service, and about the Music Genome Project that is its heart. I was hardly ahead of the curve, since there were something like 2.5 million Pandora fans ahead of me.

Well, very much better late than never since Pandora is now a constant musical companion while I’m at the keyboard.

Frankly, I’m intrigued by the notion of a live promotional tour for a web-based business. Seems very “Apple” to me.

Recap: Pandora’s Tim Westergren

Sunday, March 7, at 5:00 PM

Rialto Theatre, 318 East Congress Street, Tucson


One request is made. If you are planning to attend please drop an e-mail RSVP to this address:

Here are some links you might be interested in.

Data Port Column on Pandora: click

Wiki on he Genome Project: click

Westergren on the project: click

(Re-posted from

Jon Kyl On The Unemployed

Gotta love our Senator’s understanding of what it is to be unemployed and poor. During a Senate debate Kyl explained why unemployment insurance and other benefits ought not be extended: They discourage people from looking for work "because people are being paid even though they're not working."

The same is true of extending COBRA. Nothing puts the hustle in a job hunter like being denied health insurance.

During the debate Senator Max Baucus (D- Mont.) pointed out that “There are five unemployed Americans for every job opening in the economy. People are looking for work. They're not unemployed because of choice."

Baucus gave our guy a chance to rethink his claim; maybe modify his remarks. Kyl stuck to his guns.

Good Grief!

(Cross-posted from Tucson Citizen.)

Monday, March 01, 2010

Vehicle Tag Surcharge to Keep Parks Open?

A plan to keep Arizona’s parks and roadside rest stops open surfaced last Thursday up at the state legislature. The suggestion is to add a $12 surcharge to each non-commercial Arizona vehicle license fee.

Any driver of a vehicle with an Arizona license would then have free access to state parks. 75% of the money raised would go to a fund to manage, maintain, and improve the parks. The remaining 25% would go to the Department of Transportation to set up the fee system. Rep. Russ Jones, R-Yuma, estimates that there would be enough enough funding to re-open rest areas now closed or slated to be closed.

As always, the devil is in the details and complaints are being raised that people who own more that one vehicle may be disproportionately taxed. To judge the likelihood of passage of this legislation by the voters in November you might explore the comments on this story over at the Star.

Details of HCR 2040 can be read here.

Cross-posted from

Updated Comment: It's interesting to note how common the "I don't use it, why should I pay for it?" objection is. Good Grief, we're a tourist state! Not a smart idea to close down our major tourist attractions.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Something in My Eye

Well, that was interesting! A short vacation in Jerome, followed by blurred vision preparing for and recovering from cataract surgery, has kept me off the keyboard.

Jerome is a fascinating Arizona ghost town populated by about 400 living ghosts. Old hippies don’t die, or fade away, they move to Jerome and open gift shops and artists’ studios. Who’s to say they’re out of step with the rest of us? Certainly not I.

If you want spectral ghosts, you can find those there, too. The Jerome Grand Hotel, which is located in what was once the hospital, is supposed to be haunted; stayed there twice...never saw a ghost.


We had breakfast at the Cup Cafe in the Hotel Congress the morning we left. That was the day the announcement of the funding for our streetcar line was announced and street traffic was seriously disrupted.

I really wonder how Tucson’s drivers are going to take to the “nuisance” of sharing road space with the new streetcars.


Jim Hopkins has relaunched his Gannett Blog, which he runs along with blogs about the NY Times and News Corp. I’ve posted links in my blogroll. If you’re interested in the state of American journalism as commented on by (still) working journalists you might want to look at these. As always, read with a critical eye. Most commentators have a dog in journalism’s current fight for survival. Still...good stuff.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Citizen Journalism

(Forgive me, but this is more nearly a place holder post than a finished story. I’ll return to the topic but for now I am just reacquainting myself with the Blogger platform.)

What’s the difference between traditional journalism and this new creature called ‘citizen journalism?’

Much of the difference, and some of the friction between traditional journalists and survival strategies like, is discussed in three blogs maintained by Jim Hopkins. Probably of most interest to Tucson Citizen bloggers is his Gannett Blog, although he also maintains blogs dealing with the NY Times and News Corp.

Updated and edited 2/27/10

Trying To Keep Current

I don't know if anyone still checks in to this version of The Data Port, but my current plan is to stay at the Tucson Citizen until my first anniversary (in June.) At which time I'll re-think The Data Port's participation at I think I've had pretty good traffic over there but I have not been happy with loss of control over the way the blog looks.

I have no particular gripes with my "non-employer" Gannett since the big G has left me alone. Still, I think it is making a mistake not okaying site redesign, the current one being coldly unattractive.

Edited and updated 2/27/10