Monday, December 30, 2002

So Exactly What Did He Mean to Say?

This week's column is a riff on the idea that you should take Trent Lott's apologies seriously, that he really meant something else. And exactly what would that be?

Anticipating one objection, that conservatives were solely responsible for defeating communism, I note only that the fall of the Berlin Wall occurred during George H. W. Bush's term, and conservatives threw him overboard as one of them during the budget compromise, and they can't take him back now.

Isn't it interesting that whether Trent Lott deserves to be a U.S. Senator is strictly a matter for voters in Mississippi, but every Democrat in America was/is responsible for Cynthia McKinney?

Lott's Legacy

East Valley Tribune, Dec. 30, 2002

Maybe Trent Lott wasn’t nostalgic for segregation when he recalled Strom Thurmond’s 1948 presidential campaign with such undeserved fondness. Perhaps Sen. Lott somehow ignored the sole reason for the Dixiecrat party, and Thurmond’s only lasting political achievement (besides living so long) -- leading those conservative white voters with “problems” about equal rights out of the Democratic Party and into the Republican.

But what did Sen. Lott mean when he said that if ol’ Strom had won, “we wouldn’t have had all these problems.” Pray tell, exactly which “problems” of the past 54 years would we have avoided?

Better not ask black Americans. In 1948, in great swaths of this country we blocked them from voting, prohibited them from owning property in “restricted” neighborhoods, and sent them to segregated schools -- including, yes, in Arizona.

We prevented them from using the same restaurants, theaters, and hotels; when they enlisted in the armed forces, they served in segregated units. Presumably equal rights isn’t one of “these problems” we now regret.

Better not ask senior citizens, either. In 1948, we had no Medicare program. Vast numbers of seniors went without even basic medical care. Despite Social Security, the elderly were more likely to be poor, while today, the reverse is true. In 1948, even a minor illness raised the specter of destitution. While Medicare certainly isn’t perfect, I don’t see today’s seniors clamoring to give up their benefits. Presumably Medicare isn’t one of these unfortunate “problems,” either.

Next, recall the medical care available in 1948, before so many of today’s amazing medical developments in surgery, technology, pharmaceuticals, and treatments far better (and far more costly) than almost anything available then. Many of these developments -- including future advances -- come from publicly-subsidized research at universities or the National Institutes of Health.

Better not ask people facing diseases for which no cures existed in 1948 if government-sponsored medical research is one of “these problems” we could have avoided.

Don’t ask the disabled, either. They might think that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991 opened doors of opportunity and self-reliance formerly nailed shut. Lots of women might point out that the civil rights movement also led to equal treatment for them in the workforce, too. It’s doubtful either group would consider the ADA or Title VII as “problems” we shouldn’t have had to endure.

I’d also suggest not asking any women who play high school or college sports. They might not take kindly to any suggestion that Title IX is a terrible mistake that electing Strom Thurmond in 1948 might have prevented. (And I’d especially advise you older guys against making a dedicated athlete angry, regardless of sex.)

So, we’ve ruled out asking minorities, women, seniors, the disabled, and those benefiting from new medical treatments -- and that’s just for starters; don’t forget television, computers, and microwave ovens, much less the fall of communism. So what exactly are these “problems” that electing Thurmond 54 years ago might have let us miss?

Despite the formidable impediment suffered by anybody born before 1960, that of no longer being young, life today is clearly better than in 1948. Any American who wants to trade now for then lives on a different planet.

Maybe life today is worse than in 1948, if you’re a U.S. Senator longing for those bygone days when a handful of old white guys controlled everything. You might want to reverse decades of years of progress -- none of which was brought to you by conservatives, of course -- thus avoiding “all these problems.”

But for the rest of us, it’s nostalgia that ain’t what it used to be.

Monday, December 23, 2002

It's All Enron's and Trent Lott's Fault

I got a pretty amazing "tag" above the headline this week: "Republican Rot." Bob Schuster's idea, not mine--and that's even without mentioning the $60 million civil verdict against GOP Corporation Commissioner Jim Irvin. If you want proof, check out the paper's version here.

I also wrote 99 Words About Jane Hull, in Sunday's Arizona Republic, where they pretty much used my bar mitzvah photograph. You can read the bit here but there's no photograph available online.

Happy holidays to Gentile readers, and I presume I'll see the rest of you (us?) at the movies or at dim sum on Christmas day.


East Valley Tribune, Dec. 22, 2002

Our local media missed the local angle on two big national stories last week.

First, a videotape surfaced of an Enron Corp. party, featuring a glowing testimonial from our current president, and one from his father about just how helpful an Enron executive had been to “my boy George.”

The video also featured skits with Enron honchos actually joking about accounting fraud. A financial type jests that managing earnings was proving less difficult and time-consuming than he had feared. But the highlight was Enron’s Jeffrey Skilling talking about a new technique to boost profits by “kazillions” through adoption of “HFV” -- accounting based on “Hypothetical Future Values.”

Skilling was joking (I think). Enron’s standards-free abuse of “mark-to-market” accounting already allowed it to decide how much money it made by using prices only it knew, set in markets it controlled. Who needed to invent future values when you were creating today’s prices? But HFV sounded eerily familiar. What famous Arizona businessman actually used HFV, years before the Enron skits?

Answer? Former Gov. J. Fife Symington. In his bankruptcy fraud trial, Symington justified the inflated values he claimed for various assets on his financial statement as based on what he just knew those properties would be worth sometime in the future. It was Fife Symington, not Jeffrey Skilling, who invented HFV -- and then testified under oath that he meant it.

Fife Symington: Just slightly (and fraudulently) ahead of his time.

Second, while Trent Lott now regrets wishing that Strom Thurmond had been elected president in 1948, his problems increased before his resignation Friday with renewed attention to several pro-Confederacy and anti-civil-rights remarks Lott’s made, including a lengthy interview with a crypto-racist publication called Southern Partisan.

Southern Partisan has defended slavery (“Slave owners . . . did not have a practice of breaking up slave families. If anything, they encouraged strong slave families to further the slaves’ peace and happiness”) and trashed Lincoln’s memory (a “consummate conniver, manipulator and a liar”). They sold the T-shirt -- with Lincoln’s image over the words “sic semper tyrannis” (“thus always to tyrants”), John Wilkes Booth’s cry after the assassination -- that Timothy McVeigh wore when arrested for the Oklahoma City bombing.

Here’s the Arizona connection. In 2000, Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign -- paying some $20,000 per month for “consulting services” -- hired none other than Richard Quinn, the editor of Southern Partisan, for the South Carolina presidential primary.

Quinn’s “consulting” led McCain into supporting keeping the Confederate flag atop the South Carolina capitol, a position McCain later renounced and for which he apologized. And based on what foul stunts the Bush campaign pulled in South Carolina (the speech at Bob Jones University, the push-polls about the McCains’ adopted daughter), perhaps McCain gets his apology accepted.

But why was support of the Confederate flag the least bit legitimate in the first place, to McCain in 2000, and in GOP gubernatorial campaigns in South Carolina and Georgia this year? In 1948, the Dixiecrat platform meant nullifying the U.S. Constitution. Flying that flag today celebrates treason.

If Confederate flag-wavers claim that it’s actually about culture or history, South Carolina and Georgia were British colonies, and Mississippi and Alabama part of France, decades longer than the Confederacy. You don’t see the Union Jack or Fleur-de-Lis on many pickup trucks.

In reality, it’s all about racism.

Coded (or plausibly-deniable) appeals to crypto- (and not-so-crypto-) racists have been part of southern GOP politics for decades. As Bill Clinton noted, despite the current right-wing outrage over Lott, “he just embarrassed (the GOP) by saying in Washington what they do on the back roads every day.”

As computer programmers say, “It’s not a bug -- it’s a feature.”

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Such a Sacrifice! Such a Burden!

Trent Lott stepping down as majority leader (but remaining a senator) means that Republicans take care of their problems and Democrats don’t, says Instapundit.

Really? Of course not.

First, if taking Lott out of leadership - but keeping him in the Senate - is “taking care” of the problem, then any criticism of Robert Byrd and Ernest Hollings for their segregationist past and, more recently Byrd’s use of a racial epithet when discussing his past, isn’t valid. They’re just as eligible to remain in the Senate as is Trent Lott - much less Strom Thurmond. They just can’t serve in party leadership like Lott was.

Byrd and Hollings are “merely” long-serving members of the U.S. Senate who have been around long enough to chair (or serve as ranking minority members) of powerful committees - which is apparently a perfectly acceptable outcome for Trent Lott. The office he “wasn’t fit to hold” was majority leader, not U.S. Senator.

Second, if the issue really was Lott’s leadership role and it’s up to voters in Mississippi to decide whether Lott can remain as a senator, then only residents of West Virginia and South Carolina get to decide whether Byrd and Hollings are fit to serve as senators today.

Actually, having voted for Strom Thurmond for so many years, South Carolinians are ineligible, so it’s just West Virginia residents who get to play. Any other Republican who accepts Lott remaining in the Senate, despite his comments, just forfeited his or her right to slam Byrd or Hollings.

Third, notice what “taking care of the problem” means in this case. Trent Lott is no longer majority leader, but he’s still a United States Senator, with his seniority, committee assignments, and stature.

The Republicans solved their problem by keeping him on stage, but moving him to the side so that the spotlight doesn't shine so brightly on him anymore. Cynthia McKinney had to leave Congress, but Trent Lott can stay in the Senate.

It’s usually liberals who get blamed for self-pitying moralizing, but check out this quote from the Peggy Noonan column that Mickey Kaus saluted:

Some of us have put our reputations in jeopardy by supporting programs like the school liberation movement because we want to help people who don't have much and need a break. Or we’ve put ourselves in jeopardy by opposing racial preferences, or any number of other programs, for the very reason that we believe completely in our hearts and minds that all races are equal and no one should be judged by the color of his skin.

How, pray tell, has Noonan “put herself in jeopardy” due to her personal support of the downtrodden and of equal rights? Does she mean that The Wall Street Journal would pay her more or run her stuff more often if she just didn’t care about other people? That she would have more stature in the conservative community if she didn’t believe in equal rights so very, very sincerely? That it really is a career-limiting problem for conservatives to believe in equal rights?

It’s must take such incredible bravery to be a conservative. You have to accept money, power, and prestige being showered on you -- such a burden! Oh, what a burden your reputation bears for supporting equal rights! It’s a terrible, terrible price to pay, but they pay it, because they know such sacrifice is worth it because of how it helps the less fortunate, or because of your firm belief in equal justice under the law for all citizens.

Of course, the “sacrifice” is supporting policies that oh-so-conveniently happen to benefit you personally, like tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the rich, like school voucher plans that will aid segregated private schools, like government spending devoted to GOP congressional districts.

In the real world, a “sacrifice” is when you give something up, or do something difficult, to benefit others and not yourself. But this sort of, yes, Orwellian abuse of language is necessary to believe that letting Trent Lott remain in the U.S. Senate is a sacrifice, “taking care of” a long-standing and shameful problem.

(Harold Ickes put himself in physical jeopardy and lost a kidney working for equal rights. Into exactly what jeopardy has Peggy Noonon put herself in the cause? Oh, yes, one more thought experiment. Imagine that Paul Krugman wrote a column so self-pitying and self-justifying as Noonan's. Would Kaus have called it "good"?)

Don’t sprain your shoulder patting yourself on the back, guys.

NOTE: I edited this post after initially posting in on Saturday.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Unfortunately, When the Right Wing Asks about Women Who Had Affairs with Bill Clinton, Lots of Volunteers Step Forward

This one goes out to my high school friend Jim Finkelstein, currently of Albany, GA, who often fills my email in-box with column ideas, and who happened to pass on an overstated version of the "gaps in Bush Guard service" story from an anti-Bush website. I'm not sure the whole anti-Bush claim checks out, but the no-record-of-service-in-Alabama part does. I also like the idea of the Bush campaign asking for anybody to step forward who remembers actual service in the Alabama National Guard, as recounted in Bush's campaign autobiography. Anybody see him at the time? Nobody's come forward so far.

Plus, local itemizers, don't forget the bizarre laundry list Arizona tax credits before Dec. 31! Information and the mailing address for the Citizens Clean Election Fund tax credit contribution is available here.

My column is also available online via the East Valley Tribune website here.

East Valley Tribune, Dec. 15, 2002

In a letter to the editor on Dec. 4, Master Sgt. Michael Gorman took umbrage at my description of President Bush’s “service” in the Alabama Air National Guard. I’m not surprised Sgt. Gorman missed the point, because in matters great and small, George W. gets graded “on the curve.”

I wrote that contrary to The Tribune editorial page’s fond wish that Congress “revisit” aspects of the new Homeland Security law, “The GOP will show as much desire to ‘revisit’ these issues next year, and do it about as often, as George W. Bush showed up to do his draft-avoiding stint in the Alabama National Guard.”

Sgt. Gorman objected to calling National Guard service “draft-avoiding” -- and slurred me personally by saying that I called such service “unpatriotic” when I wrote no such thing. But I wasn’t attacking Guard service; I was pointing out George W. Bush’s service record in Alabama. More accurately, his lack of one.

In 1972, Bush transferred from his Texas Air Guard unit to work on an Alabama political campaign. Bush claims he met his Guard commitment in Montgomery, but no record exists that he ever showed up for duty.

I leave it to those who served in the military, or worked for the federal government, to ponder whether anyone could spend one hour on duty without generating any paperwork.

Of course, Bush can’t account for less than a year of “lost” Guard service, and it happened decades ago. Just do me one favor, though; insert “Clinton” in that sentence, and repeat; let me know how it feels.

“Revisit” the Homeland Security bill? President Bush will claim he did the job, only nothing will get written down. But given our low expectations, it just won’t matter to you ‘wingers.

Having cleared that particular air, December is also time to remind readers of the dizzying variety of state income tax credits. Don’t forget that anyone in a position to itemize deductions and without potential Alternative Minimum Tax liability can make thousands of dollars of state tax liability disappear.

First, there’s a credit (up to $625 for married couples filing jointly, $500 for individuals) for donations to “private school tuition organizations.” Give by December 31, then get your entire donation back in April when paying state taxes.

Second, don’t forget the separate-but-not-equal tax credit for contributions to public schools, up to $200 (individuals) or $250 (couples filing jointly). It won’t cost you a dime due to the dollar-for-dollar credit.

Third, donations to charities helping the working poor can qualify for another $200 tax credit (same amount whether married or single). Donate today, and Arizona repays you when you file your taxes.

The fourth widely-available credit may be moot, because for possibly the first time in American history, a government agency has too much money and is giving it back. The Citizens Clean Election Commission estimates it will have $1.4 million more than the legal limit, and will transfer the excess to the state’s General Fund.

But regardless, taxpayers can contribute $530 individually or $1,060 for a couple filing jointly, or 20% of your state tax liability, whichever is greater , to the Citizens Clean Election Fund. You get a dollar-for-dollar credit on Arizona income taxes. (Contributions are also deductible for federal taxes, so it’s entirely refundable; pay now, get it back in April.)

Even if your money ultimately lands in the General Fund, you have the satisfaction of earmarking those dollars and making things more difficult for the Arizona Legislature -- and that’s worth something, right?

Sure, this laundry list of tax credits is lousy public policy and a key component of the state budget crisis. But those are the rules, so why not play the game?
It's Not a Bug -- It's a Feature!

As Josh Marshall has noted, coded or plausibly-deniable appeals to crypto-racists and not-so-crypto-racists have been part and parcel of both Trent Lott's and John Ashcroft's politics. Despite outrage on the right about Lott these days, I have to note with regard to Lott's paeans to the not-so-wonderful past, "It's not a bug -- it's a feature!"

Friday, December 13, 2002

A Little Bit of Lott

I had two ideas this morning about the Trent Lott situation. Ted Barlow beat me to the punch on the first one, that Trent Lott, in Glenn Reynolds's phrase, is "objectively pro-racist." But here's the other idea. Somebody with a photo editor program should alter the famous photograph of Truman holding up the Chicago Tribune headline so that it's a picture of Trent Lott holding up the altered headline, "WHAT'S-HIS-NAME DEFEATS TRUMAN." You'd probably have to share credit with The Onion (which once altered the photo to have Truman holding up the newspaper with the headline "WHAT'S-HIS-NAME DEFEATS OTHER GUY), but it would be timely. And funny.

Monday, December 09, 2002

A Zoning Lawyer's Lament

On the way to my 30th high school reunion in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, I detoured to tour Fallingwater, the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Bear Run, PA, built over a waterfall for the Kaufman family, of Pittsburgh department store fame. I found a link to something in the recruiting video that the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the nonprofit to which the Kaufman heir gifted the house, makes you watch at the end of a tour. The WPC makes the point that their work beautifying cities helps preserve the countryside. In fact, the organization got its start raising money to landscape a new parkway in Pittsburgh.

On my return to Phoenix, I wound up thinking about the ugliness of my new commute down Thomas Road, which managed to get linked in my mind with a local dispute where a high-end neighborhood (full of people who make their upscale living off development) is riled by development in their neighborhood. It's a variant of the old zoning problem. You've heard of NIMBY? Well, this is NIMNBYE--Not In My Neighbor's Back Yard, Either.


East Valley Tribune, Dec. 8, 2002

Lots of folks believe in "private property rights" -- but what they really mean they can do what they want with their property, then tell their neighbors what they can do with their property.

It's an elastic and extraordinarily convenient philosophy; people just love demanding more of others than themselves.

It also lets well-connected neighborhoods get better, while the rest of us watch our surroundings decay.

Consider the example of neighbors of the Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix, upset over the Resort's construction of a four-story parking garage. The Biltmore had all necessary approvals for the project; the City of Phoenix approved the zoning nine years ago, and the owners pulled building permits without needing public hearings, neighborhood notification, or permission from guy across the street.

The 49-foot-high concrete garage is not the world’s most aesthetically-pleasing building. It’s a 49-foot-high concrete garage, and as unappealing as dozens built at shopping centers, offices, and resorts throughout the Valley. But it has angered the Biltmore neighbors, who now seek changes to Phoenix development ordinances to provide more notice, access to plan information, and meetings between neighbors and developers prior to construction.

In other words, they want new government programs and additional required notices, meetings, and approvals before other property owners get to use their property.

The garage is mostly finished, but for future projects, the Biltmore neighbors will probably get what they want. Heck, the Phoenix City Council once invented a special zoning category just to prevent building on the Biltmore golf courses, so some politically-connected neighbors could keep their wonderful views over somebody else’s undeveloped property.

The city will write an ordinance giving municipal officials some discretion to require neighborhood notification and consultation for preliminary site plan reviews and building permits if the project is high-profile and expensive enough. In this case, “expensive” actually means the price of the neighbors’ homes; live in a pricey enough neighborhood, you’ll get “enhanced” notice -- so your neighbors must jump through additional hoops to use their property.

One Biltmore neighbor who works in the construction industry suddenly got religion once the “big square box” started going up near his house. He’s still pro-growth, but now worried to a newspaper reporter that if we don’t take sufficient care, he and his neighbors risk eliminating the very qualities that make the neighborhood special.

Hey -- that’s one powerful garage to make a construction consultant sound like a Sierra Clubber!

Problem is, the Biltmore neighbors are right, but they’ll probably use their clout to fix only their particular problem, so the rich will just keep getting richer. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the Valley (both area and population) will just keep getting the same old same old.

There's a civic improvement group back east, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, with a two-fold mission. The Conservancy buys ecologically-significant parcels and assembles nature preserves in the countryside, but in its home city of Pittsburgh, aggressively sponsors civic beautification projects. The organization realized that making cities more appealing and attractive reduces pressures for development on the fringes. If city-dwellers see beauty around them, they don’t clamor as much to live far away, which helps preserve those rural areas.

The Biltmore neighbors have the right fear. After all, we do exactly the opposite here. We won’t ever consider making urban life more attractive; instead, we've organized to create and anesthetized ourselves to endure ugly and unappealing cities. Drive down Apache, or Broadway, or Thomas, and look around. Is there nothing we can do? Is there any question why people head for the desert instead?

But rather than wrestle with these issues, instead we’ll spend our time, and money, trying to make things even nicer at the Biltmore.

Monday, December 02, 2002

More On Vouchers (and on how to shift the debate to the right)

Here's a good example of how the public debate gets pushed steadily rightward. I wrote my column early this week (my editor wanted to take a well-deserved vacation for Thanksgiving, and put the Lack-of-Perspective section together on Wednesday). I got paired up with a conservative arguing that choice absolutely works, positively, lots of studies (but none cited in such a way that you could check them) have shown that scores improve for everybody! That's balance--a conservative ideologue, and a moderate (that's me, in case you were confused) saying hey, the evidence is mixed. Any room for a voice saying vouchers are evil? Not this week. Not this year.

Vouchers Don't Guarantee Success

East Valley Tribune, Dec. 1, 2002

Do school vouchers work? Despite the firmness of opinions on the issue, there have been surprisingly few valid empirical studies. In this case, “few” means about zero -- at least until recently.

Most voucher studies cited in this paper and elsewhere are really opinion pieces masquerading as research. Usually produced, then promoted, by groups with entrenched positions, these “studies” are merely junk science that unsurprisingly support proponents’ preexisting beliefs.

In fairness, it’s tough to study fairly whether vouchers actually improve student achievement, as measured by standardized tests. Students who apply for vouchers may have more motivation to learn than similarly situated peers, or have more involved, committed parents.

Not only would a fair study need to figure out which factors affect achievement, but those we do know about are awfully difficult to gauge. (For example, measure just how committed a parent is, on a ten-point scale.) You also could dispute whether tests accurately measure student achievement, but that’s an argument for another day.

In The Education Gap: Vouchers and Urban Schools, academic researchers William Howell and Paul Peterson got around these “control group” problems by studying, over several years, thousands of students who applied for voucher programs in New York, Dayton, and Washington, D.C. More students applied for each program than could get vouchers, so recipients were chosen by lottery -- and a surprising number of lottery winners declined the voucher. Howell and Peterson thus could study what appear to be comparable groups.

Their study kept track of other characteristics of the students, their schools, their parents, and their environment, confirming the assumption of comparability)

So, do vouchers work? Howell and Peterson’s research says the answer is yes -- and no.

In Dayton and New York, but less so in D.C., black children who used vouchers got significantly better test scores than peers who did not. However, white and Hispanic students using vouchers showed no improvement. For them, vouchers had no effect on achievement. Surprisingly, whether vouchers work seems to depend on race; vouchers work for blacks, but don’t work for Hispanic and white kids.

Frustratingly, Howell and Peterson have no good explanation for the difference. The white and Hispanic children in the study came from low-income families in inner cities with poorly performing public schools. In fact, that’s how those students qualified to apply for vouchers.

The study also ruled out language as a cause for the Hispanic students’ results. While private schools as a rule provide less assistance for non-English-speakers, an analysis of English-proficient Hispanic students also found no gains in achievement from vouchers.

The explanation Howell and Peterson offer is a “differential theory of school choice,” which assumes that the public school systems in the test cities offer black students schools significantly worse than similarly situated white and Hispanic students, or that black parents are better “shoppers” finding better private schools than do non-black parents.

Maybe black students face worse public schools than Hispanic or white students nationally, but that doesn’t explain the difference for the students in the study, all of whom attended the same school districts (and often the same schools) and came from similar low-income families.

As Sara Mead of the Progressive Policy Institute noted in her review of The Education Gap, Howell and Peterson don’t answer the most important question raised by their surprising findings: What’s different for black students in private schools, and can we bring it to public schools -- without basing educational opportunities on race?

The facts about vouchers thus are perplexing and nuanced -- exactly the opposite of the debate about vouchers. School choice works, and yet it doesn’t. So let’s drop the certainty, and may a thousand practical approaches bloom.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Anecdotes = Facts

Lee Bolin (Tempe, AZ) emailed his comments about the origin of the phrase I asked about in a prior posting (Blogger link may not work; it's the posting for 11/18) that "the plural of 'anecdote' isn't 'facts'":

"I believe that the original aphorism is "The plural of anecdote is data." The negation, that the plural is NOT data, seems to be a recent reaction by academics to the original phrase. I do recall that I read the original quote from Senator Moynihan in Time, Newsweek, or U.S. News over a decade ago, but I do not now know the specific citation. I also do not if it was Senator Moynihan's original thought, or if he had borrowed it from someone else.

A variety of other people, notably Ben Wattenberg, have used that phrase over the years. Senator Moynihan's own use of it appears from time to time in the Congressional Record. The negation, "The plural of anecdote is not data", seems to have arisen fairly recently and is popular with persnickety social scientists.

Here is an earlier and more specific -- and also more infamous -- rendering of Senator Moynihan's dictum:

"One death is a tragedy; a million deaths are a statistic."
-- Josef Stalin

He could have written the current administration's HIV/AIDS policy."

I'm now told that the Homeland Security column will run in tomorrow's paper--with an opposing piece by a Tribune editor.
Not Factual Enough for The Tribune?

This week's column didn't run. The reason given by my editor is that the paper's "wire editors have opposed running your column because it doesn't jibe with a NY Times story last week detailing who put what in the Homeland Security bill. These folks are pretty thorough and don't often object to running an opinion column due to factual issues. You might want to check the Times archive."

So I did, and found the following:

"Even in the last week, Democrats became incensed at a last-minute move by House Republican leaders to include several pro-business provisions in the bill. Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader, called the move "shabby government" and said the Republicans should be ashamed of such actions.

But the Democratic effort to strip the bill of the provisions fell short today on a 52-to-47 vote that came after extensive arm-twisting of wavering senators by President Bush. Three Democrats and three moderate Republicans said they were persuaded to vote the president's way after the Republicans promised to alter three of the most bitterly contested provisions early next year.

The three provisions would establish a university research center for domestic security, most probably at Texas A&M University; would allow many businesses that have left the country to avoid federal taxes to contract with the new department; and would provide legal protection to companies that make ingredients for vaccines."

David Firestone, "Senate Votes, 90-9, to Set Up Homeland Security Department Geared to Fight Terrorism," New York Times, Nov. 20, 2002.

The article notes that Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) claims she has an "iron-clad" promise to "revisit" the offending provisions next year, but in my opinion that's bogus. Hence the column. Write your own headline. I'll add the "real" one if the column ever runs.


If Democrats has engineered the Homeland Security act that just swept through Congress, with its stupid premises, fundamental flaws, and special-interest giveaways, the din of outrage would split your ear. But because this puppy is George W. Bush’s, it basically gets a free pass.

Oh, sure, The Tribune editorialized last week about major conceptual problems with the act. It gives virtually total immunity to almost any company with a government contract. In addition to expanding the “government contractor defense” beyond recognition, the act also locks up private and public information, and authorizes collecting data on everybody, with only the scantiest connection to protecting against terrorism.

The act also gutted the ban on homeland defense contracts with companies that relocate overseas to avoid U.S. taxes. There’s a requirement that some government official find that contracting with such a foreign-based entity wouldn’t cost anything more. Now that’s reassuring -- Congress is firmly insisting that the government not pay more of our tax dollars for the opportunity to deal with corporations which leave the U.S. to avoid paying those taxes themselves.

There’s the basic conceptual problem that moving around boxes on the government organizational chart won’t accomplish much (and will cost plenty) without a lot of thought and care given to the substance of what this new department is supposed to accomplish. And the act manages to leave all that up in the air, to be determined later.

But there’s more. The act also contains a gift to pharmaceutical companies by giving them immunity from any potential lawsuits by parents becoming convinced that preservatives used in childhood vaccines -- but not tested on kids beforehand -- may have helped caused diseases and behavioral problems like autism. What’s that got to do with the war on terrorism? Nothing. But it has everything to do with rewarding an industry that dumped millions of dollars into last-minute “issue” ads designed to help the GOP win some tight House and Senate races.

The act also provides millions of dollars of “pork” to Texas A&M University, in the home state of the president, the House majority leader, and the House whip -- all GOP stalwarts. If this program were located at, say, the University of Arkansas, can you imagine how loudly, repeatedly, and vituperatively The Tribune and the right wing “Mighty Wurlitzer” would be decrying this perfidy by Democrats? But as it’s Republican pork, what we get is earnest, soft-spoken, and almost apologetic pleas that Congress “revisit” these issues next year.

The GOP will show as much desire to “revisit” these issues next year, and do it about as often, as George W. Bush showed up to do his draft-avoiding stint in the Alabama National Guard. First, you know that old comparison between making legislation and sausage? Actually, there’s an even more accurate analogy. The legislative process is more like digestion: Once something actually emerges, nobody wants to touch it.

But more importantly, those conservative voices oh-so-politely calling for a “revisit” just don’t understand that the Republicans got the Homeland Security bill they wanted. The giveaways aren’t some oversight, but rather Republican design. And they’ll stay in the bill unless all you right-wingers scream bloody murder -- just like you would have if Clinton had pulled these stunts.

This so-called “war on terrorism” has been such a convenient excuse for GOP pork-barrel spending and tax cuts for the very richest. Now it’s a way to reward the pharmaceutical companies, Texas A&M, and foreign-based companies. And if you oppose it, George W. Bush says you’re unpatriotic and care more about special interests than national security.

Apparently, unless we reward GOP contributors, the terrorists will have won.

Monday, November 18, 2002

If The Economy Is Improving, What Are These 150 Resumes Doing Here?

I wanted to lead this week's column with a quote that "the plural of 'anecdote' isn't 'facts'" but I couldn't find the attribution from a source I trusted in time for my deadline. It's been absolutely amazing the number of resumes we've gotten for our file clerk position, as well as the qualifications of some of the applicants. Spooky. Is my law firm that good a place to work, or are we that lucky to have a job?

Here's the link to the column in yesterday's East Valley Tribune. My editor put the final two sentences of the fifth graf in larger type. I would have probably used the lines about the universities bearing the brunt of the cuts, but that's our differences in ideology for you. Rather dire headline, too. And on Sunday, the Cardinals didn't do anything to make the last line less appropriate.

East Valley Tribune, Nov. 18, 2002

It’s probably only random chance if I draw accurate conclusions about the economy based only on my experience. But if the recent experience of our small law firm means anything, it’s a pretty sickly job market.

We need a new file clerk. Now, I like my law firm and think it’s a great place to work, but not everybody may agree, and working as a file clerk -- organizing paper for 10 busy lawyers -- is not necessarily a dream job.

When we last needed a file clerk, about two years ago, we got maybe three responses. This past week, our want ad for a file clerk drew over 150 resumes. Our receptionist had to alphabetize them just to keep track. And we’re still getting more.

I doubt that classified advertising became that much more effective over the past two years (although if it has, you can call The Tribune at (480) 898-6465; operators are standing by!). Despite relatively stable unemployment figures overall, the job market at the entry level and in the “FIRE” (finance, insurance, and real estate) and related sectors seems the weakest we’ve seen in Arizona in years.

This glut of job applicants may help us find our new file clerk more quickly than two years ago. And a too-tight job market can harm future economic development; new businesses avoid locations where it’s too hard to hire new employees. But this “loose” a job market can’t be good news for Arizona.

So here are two economic predictions, based solely on personal experience and reading the newspapers. Hey, it’s bad data, but I have about the same chance of being right as those business page experts:

Budget estimates will be wrong, again. Just as state budget wonks consistently underestimated revenues during the boom years, estimates during the current economic malaise will understate both the drop in revenues and the squeeze on downturn-sensitive spending.

Perhaps the economic models didn’t account for how boom market gains goosed revenues, and will miss how much recently-accumulated losses will depress revenues for several years. Perhaps retail sales estimates are missing how much consumers are spending through catalogs or over the Internet, avoiding state taxes.

Whatever the reason, expect a repeat of this year’s budget performance for the next year or two (or more). The Legislature will strain and groan, painfully adopt a budget, and then have to return for special sessions for additional mid-year cuts when revenues don’t meet forecasts.

We’ll sell the future short. We did something remarkable this past spring in raising a combination of (mainly) public and (some) private funds for the International Genomics Consortium. We don’t do that much around here; cooperation isn’t seen as a virtue, and spending money on science and research (instead of tax cuts) contradicts the prevailing ideology. But it took lots of highly professional spin, salesmanship, and misdirection (remember those other cities allegedly bidding for the IGC? Well, neither do they.) It’s a remarkable orchestration, not likely to be repeated.

Instead, this year’s budget battles will slice funding for the three state universities. Our best hope for attracting and growing top-tier jobs is by having first-rate institutions of higher education. The universities are our “seed corn” for the future. Instead, we’ll grind them into short-term “telemarketing tacos.” In our term limits world, only losers worry about the future.

Perhaps our new governor can prevent it. But I also recall what a difference a new head coach supposedly would make for the Arizona Cardinals -- several times already. Let’s hope a good governor with a bad Legislature does better than a good coach with a bad team.

Monday, November 11, 2002

The Election Column

There will be time for serious analysis of the election results. This week, it was time for serious fun at the expense of Matt Salmon --who finally conceded late Sunday night. To web page readers (as opposed to the newspaper and email kind), sorry about reusing the opening line.

There's another interesting fact about last week's election. In the Attorney General's race, Terry Goddard far outpaced a right-wing wacko, running ahead of both Janet and Prop. 202 statewide. He even carried Maricopa County, which is 3:2 Republican in registration. Much of that margin probably came from the extreme views of his opponent (Grant Woods said that the Republican, after the primary, would have to move back to the middle, but in his case it meant the Middle Ages), but in a Clean Elections world, where down-ballot candidates have very little money to spend and are matched and capped in fundraising, name identification is paramount. Even where a candidate last ran statewide in 1994, and even if that election was a loss, that kind of name ID can win a statewide race for any office other than governor.

Hmm. Excuse me, I gotta go and make some phone calls....

East Valley Tribune, Nov. 10, 2002

Welcome to Arizona -- one of the few places electing Democrats this year.

So Massachusetts just elected yet another GOP governor, and a Republican also wins in Maryland. Meanwhile, Democrats capture the governorships in Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. As the kids say, what’s up with that?

I’m more accustomed to the usual pattern, where we Arizona Democrats get our heads handed to us but can take solace from successes in the rest of the country. This past week, I’ve been relatively sanguine about what happened elsewhere because we had good results here, including winning the big enchilada. Who’da thunk it?

Even poor, beleaguered, and underfunded George Cordova managed to finish within 3 points of Rick Renzi. Consider it a moral victory. Check out here, where the fourth place finisher in the Democratic primary tries to convince you that his race was “virtually a four way tie.” By that standard, Cordova is a “virtual winner.” Who says close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades?

I know everybody’s gun-shy from miscalling states on election night in 2000, but the governor’s race is over, done, finished. Oh, they need to count more ballots than the margin, but there’s just no way the result changes. Trust me on this one; I’ve been on the wrong side of these final counts so many times, hoping somehow that ballots in one box are statistically different than those in every other box. Of course, if you believe that, the next time the doctor wants to take a blood sample, don’t let her take just that one little tube -- make her take it all.

By this week’s deadline, Matt Salmon still hasn’t woken up and smelled the numbers. Instead, he’s asking for “closure” and talking about how “everybody has a right to have their vote counted” and that we must “count every ballot.” He’s even sounding like Al Gore now.

If he hasn’t conceded by the time today’s paper hits your driveway, it’s only a matter of time before Salmon starts wearing earth tones, grows a beard, and invents the Internet.

Salmon’s putting off conceding as long as possible, because what on earth does he do now? The man managed to lose the Arizona's governor’s race during a historically exceptional Republican year. You don’t think J.D. Hayworth won’t be reminding every GOP donor (and/or people with business before the “powerful Ways and Means Committee,” as the cliché goes) for the next four years how Matt managed to blow it and doesn’t deserve another chance?

Also, as soon as he concedes, Salmon goes back to lobbying. Maybe he can hook up with Alfredo Gutierrez; they’ll both have about the same juice under the new regime. Those make-work jobs and consulting gigs are a lot easier to snag when you’re on the way up.

Fair? Of course not. But who said politics is fair? After all, this is a country where it’s appropriate, even applauded, if Sen. Hillary Clinton gets booed at a benefit for 9/11 victims and relatives, but it’s an unspeakable vulgarity (of which we won’t cease speaking) for Democrats to get too rowdily partisan at the Wellstone memorial service. Whether we get booed or do the booing, it’s always the Democrats’ fault. Welcome to our world, Matt.

Speaking of double standards, Gov.-elect Janet Napolitano will be constantly reminded that she won a “narrow” victory, “barely” got elected, and “squeaked” into office. The people -- and reporters -- making these statements, of course, never seem to remember that each of them applies to George W. Bush.

Still, Janet has one thing on the president. At least she got more votes than her opponent.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

The Election

Let's try and understand this one. Massachusetts elects a Republican governor, but Arizona (and Oklahoma, and Wyoming) elect Democrats. What's up with that?

Monday, November 04, 2002

My Kids' Schools

We'll leave it for another day whether it makes any sense for a particular school district to have so many advantages over every other district in the state. But there really shouldn't be any argument that the district in metro Phoenix with these advantages isn't making the most of them, and that none of the discussion about Scottsdale schools ever concerns that fact. My hat's off to the long-suffering leadership of the Scottsdale Unified School District.

In other developments, isn't it interesting that Republicans are allowed and expected to be outraged for weeks, months, or even years over Mel Carnahan's death and Jean Carnahan's election, or over the political nature of the Wellstone funeral service. However, Democrats are supposed to get over it in a couple of days, max, when the Supreme Court decides to determine a presidential election.

East Valley Tribune, Nov. 3, 2002

For all the occasional public uproar surrounding the Scottsdale Unified School District, it’s good to remember that it would be pretty hard to mess up the actual schools. Based just on the demographics, student achievement always will rank at the top in Arizona.

Forget about teaching, facilities, textbooks, or computers -- the best predictor of student achievement, in education and life, is parents’ income and wealth. Period. Unless everyone in Scottsdale suddenly takes a vow of poverty, our students always will do just fine when compared to Arizona peers.

So it’s probably no surprise that when this paper or parents talk about Scottsdale schools, one of the last things discussed, if ever, is actual education. Instead, we have last month’s editorial decrying the district’s decision to stop paying to have school board meetings broadcast on cable television.

When all governments are being urged ad naseum to cut costs to the max, Scottsdale found a way to save about $100,000 that had absolutely no impact on what happens in classrooms -- and both The Tribune and the Scottsdale teachers union opposed the cut.

What are the most important issues facing the Scottsdale School Board? If you read the newspapers and listen at parent forums, it’s school construction, attendance boundaries, the traffic situation at Cherokee (imagine, making all those drivers of all those fancy cars dropping off their kids at the same time wait in line!), administrator contracts, and televising board meetings.

All these things may be important in their own right, but they have one thing in common: None has anything serious to do with student achievement.

This lack of focus on educational excellence is a species of the “tyranny of soft expectations” that President Bush used to mention back when he cared about education. The Scottsdale schools always will rank among the best Arizona districts, and that seems to be enough for most folks.

It doesn’t seem to bother anyone that overall, Arizona really doesn’t have very good schools, so what Scottsdale is accomplishing with all of its advantages is the equivalent of hitting .300 in the low minors. Sure, Scottsdale contends for the batting title, but it’s the Instructional League. Too bad that our kids, once they graduate and head to college and the work force, will face truly Major League pitching.

The real competition for Scottsdale isn’t other districts in Arizona, a state that underfunds, undervalues, and underperforms in education. Instead, based on the demographics, Scottsdale’s real competition is America’s top 50 school districts serving similarly-advantaged, wealthy suburbs around the country: New Canaan, Connecticut; Piedmont, California; Belmont, Massachusetts; Bethesda, Maryland.

That’s the league in which Scottsdale should be playing. We need to match up with Scarsdale, not worry about whether we can beat out Peoria or Agua Fria -- districts that simply cannot touch Scottsdale’s advantages.

Scottsdale student scores shouldn’t be among the best in the state; those scores, and college placements, and student success should be as good as anybody in the nation, because the district has the same (or greater) advantages as any district in the country. Instead of demanding the ability to watch school board meetings on cable (it’s so much easier for reporters to cover those boring meetings from the comfort of home, you know), parents and citizens should be demanding, and working cooperatively to achieve, levels of student achievement that match Scottsdale’s economic and demographic advantages.

Most times in life, “good enough” is good enough. And even if the most vocal parents and voters want to spend more effort on traffic flow than education, the Scottsdale schools will be good enough.

But given Scottsdale’s advantages, it’s a shame we don’t fight about doing better.

Monday, October 28, 2002

Lose Ann Symington's Money!

This week's column is a couple of one-liners stretched out to a 600-word printed stand-up routine. I really like the idea of the "Lose Ann Symington's Money" reality show, though. In other news, former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods announced that he's going to re-register as a Democrat after the election after he's finished co-chairing Matt Salmon's campaign. In an interview with the Arizona Republic published on Sunday, he tried to convince himself that Matt really isn't part of the right wingers having taken over the GOP here:

Q8. Some GOP moderates are suspicious of East Valley conservatives like Matt Salmon. Why aren't you?

If they get to know Matt Salmon, they understand that he's a different sort of person. I really find him quite exceptional. He's more conservative than I am. But that's no big deal.

Q9. If the hard right is controlling the party, why didn't they have a candidate in the Republican primary for governor?

They had one.

Q10. Who?

Carol Springer, probably.

Q11. A pro-choice woman?

Well, I don't know. That's a good point. That's just one issue. Maybe that turned them off. I don't know where they went.

Oh, well. Maybe Grant couldn't figure it out, but I think the rest of us can. Once he re-registers, then we're down to about 7 or 8 moderate Republicans in Arizona, hence the jest: What do you call a moderate Republican (or a pro-choice Republican) in Arizona? Answer: A Democrat.

East Valley Tribune, October 27, 2002

Merely remembering things that happened five or ten years ago can make Arizona politics a real laugh riot.

George Cordova, the Democrat running for Congress in District 1, lacks much of a political record, so he got attacked earlier this month on his business experience. The people attacking were former business partners who had invested $1.4 million in a failed olive oil importing venture. They included some 18 contributors to GOP causes, including members of the family of former Gov. Fife Symington (R-Bankruptcy).

Any rich Arizonan probably deserved to lose any money invested in an olive oil import business not based in New Jersey. (Yo!) Nonetheless, these angry investors argued that Cordova's business failure disqualifies him from political office. The truly delicious irony is that one person calling business failure such a terrible, terrible thing was none other than the wife of our former bankrupt, indicted, convicted, overturned-on-appeal, and pardoned-by-Bill-Clinton Gov. Symington.

When Fife Symington lost his investors $10 million, and filed bankruptcy, and faced both civil and criminal suits, these same people saw no connection between his business failures and his political qualifications. Heck, the Symington camp spun Fife's ability to ignore the collapse of his business as a positive qualification.

It was like a reality TV show, ahead of its time: "Lose Ann Symington's Money" (on attorneys' fees, even if not the actual investments). Fife won by losing -- other people's money.

I guess that's George Cordova's only mistake -- he didn't lose enough money. Squander $1.4 million of GOP donors' cash, and you're unfit for office. Blow ten times that amount in construction workers' pension funds, and you're a leader deserving our respect.

Having your business record attacked by a Symington -- talk about a badge of honor! Only in Arizona.

Meanwhile, running for Secretary of State -- for the past two decades, the gubernatorial waiting room -- is none other than "Amnesia Jan" Brewer. In 1996, Brewer castigated the quarter-cent sales tax that funded Bank One Ballpark. She slammed her opponent for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors as an "embarrassment" for having voted for the tax. She campaigned wearing a "No Stadium Tax" T-shirt, and lobbied the state legislature to overturn the supervisors' vote to build the stadium.

Two years later, after surfing into office on waves of her anti-stadium-tax rhetoric, Amnesia Jan helped host the grand opening of Bank One Ballpark, calling it "one of the architectural and engineering wonders of the world." She got elected complaining about the money needed to build it, but once it was built and paid for (with your tax dollars and Ed King's political career), Brewer had her name put on the building's dedication plaque.

Amnesia Jan is an Arizona classic. She campaigns against taxes, derides her opponent as a free-spending liberal, and once elected, is pleased as punch to spend that money generated by those same taxes she so ardently opposed. Somebody else raises the money so Amnesia Jan can preside over its spending, with a giddy smile and bubbly dedication speech ("A state of the art, fantastic ballpark. The crown jewel of Maricopa County!")

Ever wonder why so much of politics seems poll-driven and spineless? It's because thoughtful people with guts (like Jim Bruner, who voted for the stadium tax knowing it would kill his political career) pay the price for their courage, while two-faced hypocrites (like Amnesia Jan Brewer) keep skating by, so long as voters never bother to remember more than the latest sound bite.

All this happened back in 1994 and 1996. Amnesia Jan hopes you won't remember. Don't let her get away with it.

Monday, October 21, 2002

Campaign Oddity Roundup

Usually, I need 600 words to make a point, but this week I used the old link-three-unrelated-things-together-and-make-a-column technique (including recycling a prior entry below about the Montana ad -- I had a busy week and couldn't find a fourth oddity worth writing about). This Colette Rosati might be a real goldmine of potential column ideas, and decide for yourself about the Montana ad--this Internet thing is pretty cool -- but mostly, I'm just feeling vindicated about Dick Mahoney. I feel like that investment analyst who kept doubting Enron's numbers (and whom Jeffrey Skilling cursed in a conference call) must have felt when Enron imploded. Forget "Independent … Like You." The real Mahoney slogan is: "It's All About Dick."

East Valley Tribune, October 20, 2002

Three oddities from this year’s campaigns:

First, political insiders have long debated whether signs actually work. Nobody knows if signs really help persuade undecided voters or build name identification. Most campaigns post signs only because everybody else does. It reassures supporters, who if they only see opponents’ signs, get very nervous.

But one candidate apparently believes in the effectiveness of signs, because in what may be a first, she’s removed most of hers during the campaign. Colette Rosati, campaigning for the state House in District 8 (north Scottsdale and Fountain Hills), actually paid to have her signs removed before the general election.

(Disclosure: Ginny Chin, a Democrat running for one of the two House seats, has my endorsement up on her website.)

It’s not so remarkable that Rosati paid for “campaign sign removal.” What’s remarkable is that she had to disclose it on her post-primary expenditure report. There’s an election coming up, yet her signs came down (although at least three of the "old" ones finally reappeared this week).

It makes sense only if you realize that Rosati won her GOP primary by appealing to the most religiously and politically conservative voters, touting her endorsement by Arizona Right to Life on her signs. Now that she’s won the primary, she needs to move back to the center pronto -- and those clues about her useful for snaring right-wingers in the primary don’t work so well for the general.

Second, readers, don’t say I didn’t warn you about Richard Mahoney. To those of you who said Mahoney would focus on issues, bring both humor and intelligence to the race, and could energize the radical center, I say: Yeah, right.

Instead, Mahoney has not just been sleazy; he’s been ineffectively sleazy. He’s single-handedly giving negative campaigning a bad name. Dick, your single-digit poll numbers should tell you that whatever you think of the other guys, voters know you’re worse.

Finally, check out this year’s “killer” ad, as apparently calling someone a hairdresser is enough to ruin a candidate in Montana. Once the ad ran, Mike Taylor, the underfunded GOP Senate challenger, simply dropped out.

Taylor ran a barber and beauty school during the 1980’s, which eventually settled a government audit investigation by repaying about $27,000, but without admitting guilt. Taylor also produced several infomercials about his school, and part of his own TV shows, showing him with large hair, bellbottoms, and disco shirt applying lotions to a male customer’s face, appeared in the ad attacking him for alleged student-loan fraud.

There’s been a national debate whether the ad is beyond-the-pale gay-bashing or more-than-a-little-amusing (and heterosexual) “Disco Stu” bashing. Most conservative/Republican commentators find the gay-bashing crystal clear, with most liberal/Democratic observers cracking up at “Disco Stu” effect.  View the ad here and decide for yourself.

Anyone in Arizona probably isn’t well-equipped with the necessary subtextual radar to determine the answer. Subtext? We get our gay-bashing strictly overt and blatant, whether it’s “Vote Gay” signs or vicious direct mail in GOP legislative primaries. I don’t recall much of a fuss in conservative/Republican circles about obvious gay-bashing; maybe it was just too obvious for them to care.

But the most interesting thing about conservative/Republican reaction to the hairdresser ad is the numerous comparisons to the first Bush campaign’s use of Willie Horton in 1988. The anti-Taylor ad is being called as hateful and inappropriate as the racism in the Willie Horton attacks. Apparently, some 14 years late, these commentators now consider that Bush I tactic racist, something not admitted at the time.

Who knows? If Noam Chomsky lives long enough, maybe he can have his past utterances ignored and get rehabilitated and respected -- just like Strom Thurmond.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Taking Issue with Tuesday Morning Quarterback

No, not with his football comments, which are fabulous, nor with the running critiques of Enterprise, the new Star Trek "prequel" series, but with a comment last month about Bush v. Gore.

Gregg Easterbrook’s analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore (scroll way down) argues that whatever the problems with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, the Florida Supreme Court decision was worse. The Florida court ignored, in Easterbrook’s view, equal protection -- the principle that a particular level of government must treat everybody the same. Under a federal system, it’s permissible for different states to have different voting standards, but each state must treat each of its citizens in the same way. Easterbrook says the Florida Supreme Court allowed different counting standards in different counties, thereby violating equal protection due to citizens of Florida.

However, in Florida (and most other states), the relevant unit of government for counting votes isn’t the state, but the county. State law determines the general legal standards for voting -- the hours the polls are open, how candidates file and campaign, and what constitutes a valid vote -- but it’s up to each individual county to run the election and count the votes.

Last month, after major problems with voting in the Democratic primary in Dade and Broward counties, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) immediately said it wasn’t a state problem, but rather the responsibility of county election officials. He didn’t see the problems as a statewide issue, nor one that implicated any state responsibility for making sure that voters in south Florida had the same opportunity to vote and to have their votes counted as voters in the rest of the state.

If the unit of government responsible for voting really was the state, and equal protection really meant that every citizen of Florida should be treated the same, then Gov. Bush was all wet, and supporters of Bush v. Gore (and critics of the Florida Supreme Court decision) should have said he was all wet. Equal protection should be applied equally -- if it applied at all.

On the other hand, it’s wonderful that some supposedly grand principle that got George Bush declared president is undercut by his own brother.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

In Arizona, We Don't Know From Subtle

You can see the TV ad that caused Mike Taylor, the underfunded GOP Senate candidate in Montana, to drop out of the race here or here (with options to download or stream). The Internet has hosted a major debate whether the ad is beyond-the-pale gay-bashing or more-than-a-little-amusing heterosexual “Disco Stu” bashing. As you might expect, most conservative/Republican commentators find the gay-bashing crystal clear, with most liberal/Democratic observers cracking up at “Disco Stu.” View the ad and decide for yourself.

Anyone in Arizona probably isn’t well-equipped with the necessary subtextual radar to decide which applies. During this campaign season, we have gotten our gay-bashing strictly overt and blatant, with no subtext necessary: anonymous “Vote Gay” signs placed next to signs for the Democratic candidate for governor here, who happens to be an unmarried woman. I don’t recall much of a fuss in conservative/Republican circles about such obvious gay-bashing; maybe it was just too obvious for them to care.

But the most interesting thing about the conservative/Republican reaction to the Montana hairdresser ad is the comparisons to the first Bush campaign’s use of Willie Horton in 1988. The hairdresser ad is being called gay-bashing as just as bad as the subtextual racism in that attack on Dukakis—which means that these conservative/Republican commentators, some 14 years late, now find the use of Willie Horton as racist, something I don’t recall them admitting at the time.

Who knows? If Noam Chomsky just lives long enough, maybe he can have his past utterances ignored and get rehabilitated and respected, just like Strom Thurmond.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

The State Budget Crisis

This week's column was 612 words, or maybe it was really 38 million words if it would have been part of the Matt Salmon budget plan. I got a more aggressive headline than I thought the column would have, but if the Tribune is the house organ of the Salmon for Governor campaign, maybe they thought they should give me one. However, Bob Schuster deleted the joke that based on the budget plan, Matt Salmon's math is about as good as his definition of "lobbying." He also cut the last line, which I've put back in. You can read my version below and the Tribune's version here.

I'm late posting this week because I was in St. Louis on Monday and Tuesday, for one of the periodic showings of the grandchildren to the actual people in charge. Also, Beth is starting two weeks at Saint Louis University Law School as a "practitioner in residence."

I always have a wonderful time in St. Louis because my younger son and my father-in-law basically like to do the same stuff. We paid our respects to Crown Candy, Ted Drewes, and toasted ravioli (scroll down to the 5th entry), and swam laps, took a steam, and had breakfast with the same old guys (a/k/a the old same guys) at the Missouri Athletic Club. Each may be overrated, but each is still fine by me (and the kids generally, but especially Louis).

East Valley Tribune, October 13, 2002

Those of you swallowing that “just cut spending” nonsense regarding the state budget deficit should think twice about cutting education. Given how badly the numbers prove your belief is nonsense, the last thing to cut is teaching math.

Consider Arizona’s looming $1 billion deficit. Let’s assume current spending levels for education, healthcare, and prisons. Sounds reasonable, right? No candidate is bragging how they’ll cut those core government functions.

Remember that maintaining current services means more dollars than last year. There’s inflation and new medical treatments, and more children in schools and more criminals in prisons, so providing the same services costs more.

Also remember that “current spending levels” is still pretty dreadful. Scottsdale Schools Superintendent Barbara Erwin correctly called current inadequate funding for public education a form of child abuse. Hospital emergency departments in Pima County are day-to-day, with their funding on intensive care. And even if crime rates stay stable, nobody calls for fewer crimes or shorter sentences.

Keeping those core services at current levels, but eliminating every other agency, program, and service of state government -- everything! -- would save, according to Tom Betlach, Gov. Hull’s budget director, about $480 million, less than half of the 2003-04 deficit.

Think about it. No courts, no tourism promotion, no child welfare, no emergency food aid, no regulation of insurance, banks, utilities, and real estate. No state police or parks. No legislature. A libertarian heaven on earth, like Lord of the Flies but with real people.

People don’t realize how much of government is in those “core functions” because in Arizona we simply don’t fund optional stuff much. Oh, you can find pointless programs; in any enterprise of the size of state government, of course there’s waste, fraud, and abuse. But there’s no way to find enough five-, six-, or even seven-figure programs to pay for a ten-figure deficit.

Just do the math -- just don’t do the math as sloppily as Matt Salmon’s “budget plan.” Salmon proposes consolidating the Banking, Real Estate, and Insurance Departments and thereby save $50 million. Unfortunately, these three agencies get about $12 million total from the General Fund. Forget about “consolidating” -- you could eliminate them entirely and still need to find another $38 million in savings from unspecified other agencies.

Even with this kind of bogus math, Salmon’s “plan” -- by its own admission -- is still $400 million short.

There’s one final myth about the state budget. Government should cut spending "because that’s what families do during tough times."

Leave aside that unlike businesses and families, the demands on government increase during a recession. The entire analogy is bogus, because during this recession individuals may be cutting spending some, but they’re borrowing money more.

Consumer debt is at record levels. In fact, our economic outlook is so cloudy in part because consumers have kept spending at boom-like levels by increasing debt. When this recession finally ends, unlike past cycles construction and auto sales won’t lead the recovery, because consumers have taken advantage of low mortgage and new car loan rates already.

Want to run state government like a family budget? Then take out a new mortgage and borrow our way to a better tomorrow, just like real families are doing.

Would a “real family” cut education, healthcare, and prisons? No way -- with or without credit cards and zero percent financing. Don’t swallow this absurd hokum; take a math class instead.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Just a Question (or two)

Why do people who find the government utterly clueless, inefficient, and worse-than-useless when it comes to airport security find the same government utterly trustworthy, prescient, and correct when it comes to Iraq?

Shouldn't anybody with an "Impeach Norm Mineta" bumper sticker call for war in the Middle East with, at the very least, a sense of irony?

Monday, October 07, 2002

Beating Up Those Who Can't Fight Back

This week's column was triggered by an Arizona Court of Appeals decision, Flanders v. Maricopa County, No. 1 CA-CV 01-0239 (Ariz. App. Sep. 26, 2002). You also might want to read the full rant by Prof. Mark Kleiman of UCLA regarding cutting prison literacy programs for the math on such efforts, if nothing else.

I got a dreadful headline; jail anarchy is the kind of thing that would gladden conservatives. The actual point of my column is that too much of politics today depends on beating up people who can't fight back. Prisoners, illegal aliens, juvenile predators, it's all their fault--what a winning philosophy! But you have to take what you can get with The Tribune.

East Valley Tribune, October 6, 2002

The signs say “Support Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Jails. Vote for Proposition 411.” Maybe, as urged by Supervisor Fulton Brock, we should extend the county’s jail tax. But based on a new Arizona Court of Appeals opinion, don’t vote for Prop. 411 to support Arpaio’s jails -- unless you enjoy “deliberate indifference” to human life, violating the constitution, and making prisoners suffer just for the political upside.

The appeals court upheld a $948,000 jury verdict against Maricopa County and Arpaio in the brutal beating of Jeremy Flanders in the Tent City Jail. In 1996, while serving a one-year sentence for burglary, other inmates brutally attacked a sleeping Flanders during a guard shift change. Witnesses saw Flanders, then 20, beaten with a metal rebar tent spike. No guards responded, no alarm sounded.

Bloodied, unconscious, and beaten nearly unrecognizable, another inmate carried Flanders to the guards, nearly 100 yards away, for assistance. Flanders remained in a coma for several days; he lost motor functions and suffered permanent brain damage.

The U.S. Constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments.” Flanders sued Maricopa County, the Sheriff’s Office, and Arpaio for violating his Eighth Amendment rights, and for gross negligence.

The trial revealed some seamy details of Tent City lost in the haze of bologna sandwiches, pink underwear, and chain gangs: Too few guards too far away to supervise and control inmates; prisoners roaming the grounds freely; pervasive weapons, like those tent stakes; frequent inmate fights; and plenty of easily-obtained contraband.

Getting contraband into Tent City was absurdly easy. Prisoners on work release brought back some, but more simply was thrown inside. Outsiders would approach the fences and just toss stuff to inmates in the yard. As guards rarely patrolled outside, the “fence toss” was a steady pipeline into the jail.

At trial, a correctional expert described preposterously simple, but ignored, ways to reduce weapons and contraband and increase security: cementing tent stakes, moving the fences, and conducting shift changes in the yard, not the enclosed building.

The court said the evidence of unsafe conditions “was essentially undisputed, even by jail authorities.” The court held that “the history of violence, the abundance of weaponry, the lack of supervision, and the absence of necessary security measures supports the jury’s finding of deliberate indifference to inmate safety” by Arpaio.

Arpaio’s defense was “a claimed lack of knowledge,” that America’s Most Media-Hungry Sheriff just didn’t know what occurred in Tent City and therefore couldn’t be responsible. He even testified to ignorance of an inmate’s threat to beat Arpaio with a tent stake -- a threat, unfortunately, described in his book, America’s Toughest Sheriff. (He only wrote the book; he never said he read it.)

Arpaio’s indifference to law and life has a parallel with the Bush administration’s move to cut prison literacy funding -- a move which UCLA professor Mark Kleiman compares to trying to reduce health care costs by cutting vaccinations. It’s guaranteed to increase both costs and crime.

Literacy correlates with employment and illiteracy correlates with recidivism. Given prison costs, a literacy program with only 1 percent effectiveness saves money -- with the benefits of lower crime to potential victims and the community an additional bonus.

But, as Kleiman notes, shortsighted hatred of criminals instead will give us policies that increase crime.

The only reason to cut prison literacy programs, or to have a Tent City, is for the votes to be had in saying any prisoner is bad, deserves what he gets, and we won’t spend any money on bad people, even if it eventually costs us more million-dollar verdicts and more crime.

Who cares if it’s right, it’s so popular to beat up somebody who can’t fight back -- just like what Joe Arpaio let happen to Jeremy Flanders.

Monday, September 30, 2002

Politics and Statistics--Drink Coffee Before Reading

This week's column contains not one, but two, eye-glazing topics, politics and statistics. Consider yourself warned. The editor's headline is a bit over the top; instead, my point is that there's no technological "solution" to vote counting, only reducing the number of errors. And none of the current systems quite approach what industry calls "Six Sigma" quality (or at least they did back in the days that we worshipped business), and in tight races, that margin of error may exceed the margin of victory. My advice to candidates: Try to win by more than one vote.

East Valley Tribune, September 29, 2002

The GOP primary for the newly redistricted District 11 state Senate seat pitted incumbent Sen. Sue Gerard (about whom I cannot say enough good things) and current Rep. Barbara Leff (about whom I shall say nothing). Both Leff and Gerard spent over $120,000, and the race was as tight as expected -- a lesson in how votes count.

Out of more than 18,000 votes cast, Leff beat Gerard on election night by 27 votes. The margin was so tight that the winner had to wait for some 30,000 miscellaneous Maricopa County ballots, from people who had requested an early ballot but didn’t mail it in time, or who otherwise had cast a questioned ballot -- ballots which could have come from any party or legislative district in the county.

On Sunday, the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office announced that Leff still had won, now by 37 votes. The “late ballots” increased her margin by 11 votes, while changing the results of an equally-close race in the GOP House primary. The final initial count showed a 38-vote margin.

(In the District 11 GOP House race, Steve Tully and Steve May seemingly had won the two spots, with Deb Gullett finishing third by 13 votes. The late ballots, however, changed the results, with Gullett overtaking May by 58 votes.)

The Leff-Gerard race fell within the 50-vote margin requiring a full recount. The automatic recount didn’t change the result, only the margin. Leff now won by 60 votes. But the automatic recount, despite not changing the outcome, was statistically fascinating.

Maricopa County votes using optical scanning technology, with voters marking ballots by completing an arrow with a pen. Optical scanners “read” each ballot and tally the votes. In an official recount, elections officials, as required by statute, run the ballots through a different machine. Nobody expected any difference in the result, because nobody expects machines to disagree.

In the recount, county officials use their “best” scanner, which means the most sensitive. The “better” machine detected a surprising number of missing votes, for both candidates, missed by the “regular” machines.

The official vote totals from the regular count and the recount, tracking the 5 possible results, are shown on the graph: a vote for Gerard; a vote for Leff; an “undervote,” where a ballot did not indicate a vote for either; a “write-in” ballot, where a voter wrote in a third person, and an “overvote,” where the voter voted for both candidates, either by completing both arrows or by write-in.

[I can't get the chart (not a "graph") to reproduce in Blogger, so here are the raw numbers:

Official Count: Gerard 8,402; Leff 8,439; Undervote 1,339; Write-In 49; Overvote 18.

Recount: Gerard 8,441; Leff 8,501; Undervote 1,235; Write-In 50; Overvote 20.]

Both the official count, and the recount, showed 18,247 total ballots. In the recount, Gerard gained 39 votes, but Leff gained 62 votes, a net gain of 23.

Note two interesting facts. First, 1,235 people in an upscale district who bothered to vote in a low-turnout primary didn’t vote in a high-profile state legislative race.

Second, notice the drop in the number of undervotes -- 104 votes for both candidates ignored in the official count. Despite our faith in optical scanners, the official count missed 104 valid votes out of 18,247. The result didn’t change, but our state-of-the-art machines missed 0.126 percent of the votes.

That’s not much of an error rate -- unless the election is close. Say, like in Florida in 2000, where out of more than 5.8 million votes cast, an error rate of 0.126 percent means 7,300 uncounted votes, more than a dozen times more than Bush’s announced margin of 537.

Democracy is an approximation. A mandate may be merely the margin of error. And congratulations to the winners.

Monday, September 23, 2002

Stupidity or Cupidity--You Make the Call

For those of you not steeped in Arizona politics, you might not realize that Matt Salmon, the GOP nominee for governor, is working as a lobbyist while he campaigns for governor. Ever read one of those right-wingers who attack liberals because we're so beholden to government and conservatives are morally superior because they'd rather be in the private sector? What does it mean that in Arizona, they've nominated someone who doesn't know how to earn a living apart from government, either as an official or a lobbyist?

I now have to take back my claim (entry of 9/12/02; link not working) that Dick Mahoney hasn't attacked Matt Salmon without going after Janet Napolitano, too. This one was too rich to resist, even for Dick. And what does it say about the Betsey Bayless campaign that they completely missed this issue during the GOP primary?

The editor deleted the last line--apparently for space considerations, but who knows? Bob also didn't like my original opening line, that even more than The Tribune likes Matt Salmon, The Tribune hates light rail.

East Valley Tribune, September 22, 2002

Matt Salmon isn’t even running for governor full-time. Instead, he schedules campaigning around his regular job -- as a lobbyist for light rail and the phone company. Nice work if you can get it. (And just how do you think he got it?)

The Tribune originally disclosed Salmon’s lobbying (ahem, consulting) client list back in May. This past week, The Arizona Republic reported that Salmon still represents three: The City of Phoenix, Maverick Convenience Stores, and Qwest Communications. In campaign speeches, Salmon may recite the cliché about working for Arizona, but currently he’s working to snag federal funds for Phoenix light rail and for our friendly neighborhood under-SEC-investigation phone company.

Salmon defends his high-paying lobbying gig thusly: “I am a real guy . . . that works for a living and I’m proud of it.” (I’ve deleted his references to family because they aren’t running for governor and deserve their privacy, even if Salmon wants to hide behind them.) Just a regular guy, proudly working for a living -- a “Lunch Bucket Lobbyist.”

Here’s Matt Salmon’s definition of what “a real guy” does when he “works for a living”: He “advises” Qwest executives on getting what they want from state and federal regulators. He meets with other “policy-makers” on Qwest’s radar, like mayors and city council members. For Phoenix, he maintains and develops contacts with members of Congress and the Bush administration on city priorities; advises city officials on their own contacts; and participates in a weekly conference call.

Qwest won’t say how much it pays Salmon for advising and schmoozing, but Phoenix had to disclose that it paid $187,000 for his services over the past year. This summer, Phoenix cut the contract in half because campaigning put a crimp in Salmon’s schedule, so now he only gets $75,000 annually. A campaign spokesperson said that Salmon does his lobbying during his “private time.” Thus, his day consists of campaigning throughout the state, then earning his potential six-figure lobbying income. And then if there’s any time left, maybe he helps out around the house.

While he pays his “expenses” (which also get publicly reported; go to it, reporters!) out of the monthly fees, he’s still raking in at least four or five times the average income for an Arizona family, while asking for their votes.

Salmon’s lobbying put the upcoming GOP fundraiser in perspective. Of course George W. Bush will raise money here. He’s spending more time than even Bill Clinton did raising political cash all over the country, but in Arizona, the GOP fundraising machine can eliminate potential inefficiencies.

Instead of raising money from highly-paid lobbyists for mere politicians, now they can raise money from highly-paid lobbyists to benefit another highly-paid lobbyist -- cutting out the middleman. It’s Bush’s and Salmon’s idea of Nirvana: Government of the lobbyists, by the lobbyists, and for the lobbyists.

Lobbying for private clients while running for public office is perfectly legal. Oh, some good government types worry about the appearance of impropriety; how can you be working the levers of government this year to benefit Phoenix and Qwest, then take control of those levers next year and treat your former clients just like everybody else?

But this isn’t a legal or ethical issue. Instead of fretting about the appearance of impropriety, worry instead about the appearance of stupidity. Who else would be either dumb or brazen enough to call lobbying “real work for a living” by “a real guy” during a political campaign?

Salmon may claim that he’s a different kind of politician. But he’s just another of the same old kind of lobbyist.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

John P. Frank

I took a break from politics this week to write a tribune (in The Tribune!) to John P. Frank, the senior partner at Lewis and Roca here in Phoenix. John was a mentor and friend to my wife Beth and my partners Andy and Karen, and a good friend to good causes in Arizona. I hoped to capture some of JPF's accomplishments, but also some of his humor. I've reinserted a couple of phrases that got deleted due to space limitations.

Lewis and Roca hosted a memorial tribute to John on Saturday at the Phoenix Art Museum, which far exceeded what I could write, but this column is for those of you who couldn't attend, or who didn't know JPF.

East Valley Tribune, September 15, 2002

At age 84, the late John P. Frank still had more projects and plans ongoing than most people manage in a lifetime.

Frank, known to his friends as JPF, was a renowned collection of idiosyncrasies, including his omnipresent bow ties, his inability to drive a car safely, and his near-total ability simply to ignore things that did not interest him. But in a remarkable career, he deployed remarkable intellectual horsepower, limitless chutzpah, tireless persistence, and virtuoso ability to express complex and sophisticated legal issues in straightforward and compelling prose to change the law -- and the country.

JPF left many different legacies. While a law professor, he played a key role in the Supreme Court’s desegregation cases, writing a significant “friend of the court” brief in Sweatt v. Painter, the 1950 case that forced integration of the University of Texas Law School. He also advised the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., on constitutional and legislative history in Brown v. Board of Education.

As a parent, he and his wife of 58 years, Lorraine W. Frank -- a remarkable contributor to Arizona in her own right -- raised five children, who received their parents’ own Sunday School curriculum when they found the existing alternatives intellectually insufficient.

As a lawyer, he represented Ernesto Miranda, and in 1966, the Supreme Court required police to inform suspects of their constitutional right to remain silent and to be represented by a lawyer -- the famous “Miranda rights” that any connoisseur of TV crime dramas can recite from memory.

JPF enjoyed the practice of law, which he found endlessly fascinating as well as a powerful, necessary tool for achieving social justice and making this country even greater and more free. He earned a nice living, and clients nationally sought his advice. Some even paid handsomely for it. But unlike many athletes who claim they’d play for free, he actually did, taking on vast numbers of unpaid clients for the intellectual challenge, the joy of the fight, and the moral virtue of the cause.

As an author, he wrote 11 books, including Lincoln as a Lawyer, which the reviewer for The New York Times called “a classic,” and which remains the leading work on Abraham Lincoln’s legal practice.

But JPF did his greatest work with and through others. He asked his partner John J. Flynn to argue the Miranda case, because JPF previously had argued before the Supreme Court but Flynn had not. As JPF predicted, the case made Flynn’s national reputation.

As hiring partner for Lewis and Roca, he helped Mary M. Schroeder, now Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, become the first woman associate, and then the first woman partner, in a major Phoenix firm.

He taught, advised, and worked alongside Attorney General Janet Napolitano, and prided himself on being her first, and most fervent, supporter in her campaign for governor. He was extraordinarily generous with his time, insight, and wisdom with countless others, perhaps less famous but no less grateful.

While teaching at Yale Law School, he arranged for a black student with little money to see JPF’s friend Thurgood Marshall argue the Sweatt case - lining up the admission ticket and even paying train fare to Washington. The student, A. Leon Higginbotham Jr., described the experience as a turning point, which led to his own remarkable legal career, including serving as Chief Judge of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

In truth, JPF’s greatest legacy, and the one in which he took greatest pride, isn’t found in legal victories, court opinions, or between book covers. It is still being written in the achievements of those to whom he served as a tireless, brilliant, and creative mentor, colleague, and cheerleader.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Post-Primary Comments

Here's what I should have said on Horizon on Tuesday night:

1. I thought Grant Woods made the point well, but I also should have agreed that Jim Pederson truly has done a great job as state Democratic party chair, not an easy task. From personal experience, being state party chair is like taking small children to a fancy restaurant; the really tough part is not ruining everybody else's good time, and if you have fun, too, you're a miracle worker.

2. The GOP spin for the general election is that Janet Napolitano hasn't defined her campaign, or been specific on the issues. Actually, she's actually put lots of specific proposals on the table. Perhaps Grant's been too busy co-chairing Salmon's campaign to notice. Also, her specifics make a lot more sense than Salmon, who is saying he will (a) cut taxes and (b) spend more on education. At least Janet's math works.

3. I'm totally fed up with Dick Mahoney. Keep in mind a couple of things: (1) You never hear what Dick Mahoney's ideas are, only that he has ideas. His campaign is about the idea of having ideas, not any actual ideas. (2) The only people taking Dick seriously and praising him are serious Salmon supporters, like Grant, Chuck Coughlin, and Bob Robb. Nobody who isn't voting for Salmon thinks well of Mahoney. Ask the next person you hear praise Mahoney if they're actually voting for him, and dollars to donuts, the answer is "no." (3) In line with point #2, also notice how Mahoney never attacks Salmon, only Napolitano. He' s just a stalking horse for the Republican. Independent, my eye.

4. When given a choice, Democrats voted for the more moderate candidate; when given a choice, Republicans voted for the more conservative candidate. You had to get down to state legislative races before a GOP moderate defeated a right-winger. Salmon won by so much for the same reason that Horne beat Molera and Thomas won for AG and Trent Franks (Trent Franks!) won the congressional race--there really aren't any Republican moderates anymore. That's why Grant was on TV Tuesday instead of on the ballot.

5. In new CD-7, a very impressive win by Raul Grijalva. He dropped below 50% but still took 40% of the vote in a crowded and capable field, which included multiple Hispanics and at least three candidates who garnered significant funding and newspaper endorsements. A real shoe-leather campaign, apparently; less TV, more get-out-the-vote. It's perhaps part of a national trend, with campaigns suspecting declining effectiveness of TV ads and greater emphasis on traditional, grass-roots campaigning, as tentatively noted by Adam Nagourney in The New York Times. On a more catty note, Mark Fleisher's poor showing in that district was reassuring, too; nobody could tell in advance how big the "doofus vote" would be in a new district.

6. Here's my cynical explanation for Alfredo Gutierrez and Art Hamilton refusing to endorse Janet for governor. It looks like Alfredo's campaign really was never about issues but was simply about ego. But I suspect what's really going on is that both Alfredo and Art now are lobbyists--and their ability to garner clients and rake in the bucks should Janet Napolitano be governor will be limited. They both will make more money is Salmon wins, and they can be the GOP establishment's favorite Democrats. I guess to them, the governor's race is all about their wallets.