Friday, February 27, 2004

The Foundation of Arizona's Economy: Military Bases, Real Estate Development, and Professional Sports

Today's Washington Post discusses Maricopa County's $700 million investment in new (and single-tenant) professional sports venues here. I think this is nuts, but apparently that's just me and a handful of other disgruntled citizens.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Deadline for Marriage

Single? Better get it in gear before the Musgrave amendment passes. Note the second sentence:

"Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

So as Atrios notes, if you're not married before the thing passes, you're marital toast. Read my lips: No new marriages.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Why Virginia Postrel Is an Old-Fashioned Baseball Guy

It's because she's letting her "gut" inform her view of the world, unburdened by any statistics. As Michael Bérubé noted qualitatively, and both Brad DeLong and Max Sawicky ("She has no data to support the case she is pretending not to be making") noted quantitatively, Postrel last Sunday mused in the New York Times that maybe the jobs picture is "prettier" than the official statistics--but we don't have any data to support that assertion, and the oft-noted discrepancy between the two major employment data sources has remained essentially constant over the past three years, so it's not like one statistic says we're creating more jobs than the other.

In relying on her "dynamic" gut, Postrel is like sports reporters and old-time baseball guys who know (or who have been told by older baseball guys) what it takes to win baseball games and who can't be bothered by analyzing statistics or using the scientific method to test (or toss out) their theories. The baseball guys value abstract qualities only they can judge, and dismiss the value of statistics--and in one recent case noted by Matt Welch, ignore Kirk Gibson's incredible lifetime statistics to focus on his "leadership qualities" instead.

If you're making an argument about statistics, some rigor and data would be nice. And if you're not, then you're just Joe Morgan reciting old-time baseball "wisdom" that doesn't stand up to analysis.
Fighting for Freedom over Religious Intolerance -- Not!

President Bush's endorsement of a gay marriage amendment yesterday means that he's certainly not the guy to lead us in fighting to defend our freedoms, and the Constitution, against religious extremists.

As reported by Dana Milbank in today's Washington Post:

"[A] Senate Republican with ties to the religious conservative movement said 'the last place Bush wanted to be' at this time in the electoral cycle was wooing his base of support. 'He should be coasting on being the war president and deliverer of tax cuts; instead, he has to take a divisive role on a contentious social issue that could undercut him as a compassionate conservative,' this official said.

Serves him right.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Special Gay Marriage Amendment Post

First, Joshua Micah Marshall:

"[Bush's] support among conservatives has taken some real hits. The White House has decided that the long-predicted rising economy won't float them through this election. The situation in Iraq looks wobbly and likely to get worse before it gets better. So deprived of the ability to run on his record he's decided to save his political hide by trying to tear the country apart over a charged and divisive social issue which is being hashed out through the political process in the states.

It's his dad and the flag burning amendment all over again. Is there really anything that tells you more about a man's character than this?"

And pretty much the last word from the Onion here.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Does Fundamentalist Zealotry Sound Better In English Than In Arabic?

It's more local Arizona stuff this week, with our legislature out to prove that there are really no institutional checks in politics anymore. As another example from that in the column, there are a slew of bills in the House that would make the judiciary subject to legislative oversight, so that the conservatives could overturn court decisions they didn't find politically acceptable. But if we translated any of these bills into Arabic and somebody in Iraq proposed them, we'd be outraged. Here in Arizona, it's just how we do things.

Hey, Republicans, here's a thought experiment. Let's say Kerry (or Edwards) is elected this fall. After the performance of the Bush administration--on the start date of the recession, on the job projection numbers, on the (5-year vs. 10-year) budget projections, on WMD and the reasons for going to war in Iraq, on science issues--why should a future Democratic administration ever have to tell the truth about anything? (Except sex--we'll give you that one.)

East Valley Tribune, Feb. 22, 2004

Forget about bringing democracy to Iraq -- can we get some democracy in the Arizona House of Representatives, and some ethics in the Arizona Senate?

House Speaker Jake Flake makes no pretense of being the elected leader of the entire House. Instead, he's eliminating all dissenting views and excluding all Democrats from the budget process. Maybe locking out all Democrats and Republicans who don't toe the speaker's line makes sense to people who believe exactly as he does. But last time I checked, the Arizona Constitution doesn't provide that the House reflect only the opinions of one East Valley carpool.

The speaker decided to conduct budget deliberations entirely behind closed doors, among Republicans only. There are no open committee meetings for the minority to ask questions and propose amendments. The Appropriations Committee has eliminated its subcommittees; after all, on a subcommittee, people might develop independent expertise -- and there might be (shudder!) Democrats present. Can't have that.

The speaker justifies making the House a GOP club because House Democrats will support the governor's budget proposal, and the speaker sees no reason to negotiate with one more Democrat than absolutely necessary. Apparently, it's bad enough for him that some Democrats get elected, but that's no reason for the speaker to respect and treat them fairly.

There's no little irony in the speaker disrespecting members of the minority who support their party's leader, because when two members of his GOP caucus -- Rep. Pete Hershberger of Tucson and Rep. Tom O'Halleran of Sedona -- didn't follow their party leadership's orders in the CPS reform special session, the speaker stripped them of their chairmanships and threw them off those committees. So the speaker's justification has nothing to do with independence; he just can't abide elected legislators who are the slightest bit independent from him.

Jake Flake's job title is Speaker of the House, not "king" -- but he doesn't see it that way. He's a presumably charming guy, with lots of home-spun stories about roping cattle and riding horses, but he doesn't act as if he actually believes in democracy.

Leadership should mean getting people to follow you, not preventing anyone who disagrees from having a say. And the silence is deafening from people who would rant for days about obscure rules and procedures in the U.S. House of Representatives when the Democrats had the majority, who think it's just peachy that Speaker Flake runs things this undemocratically.

East Valley GOP legislators are totally outraged that homeowner associations might treat their members as poorly as they treat their duly-elected colleagues of a different political party. Spin doctors, heal thyself.

The silence is similarly deafening when Senate President Ken Bennett sponsored a bill that would benefit his family's oil distribution business by making the taxpayers pay some environmental costs that otherwise his business must pay. President Bennett says it's perfectly ethical, because his bill would benefit other oil distribution businesses besides his family's. Well, that certainly clears it up -- there's no conflict in President Bennett's mind so long as the bill doesn't benefit only the Bennett family.

People found it unseemly when Jeff Groscost's friends and neighbors took advantage of his alt-fuels subsidy scheme, but that was wide-open to everybody in Arizona compared to Sen. Bennett deciding to help a certain handful of businesses that just coincidentally happens to include his own.

So that's today's Arizona Legislature, where the speaker doesn't believe in democracy and the Senate President wouldn't know a conflict of interest if it was sitting right there in his wallet.

Democracy? Ethics? Let's just hope nobody tells the Iraqis about how we do things in Arizona.

Monday, February 16, 2004

When We Say "Bipartisan," We Mean You Agree With Us

My Tribune column went back to running on Sunday this week. The Buddy Hackett joke is one of my favorites (just ask my kids) but it doesn't translate all that well to writing.

The Media Guys have a pretty good Internet film about Speaker Flake kicking Reps. Hershberger and O'Halleran off their committees. I got another example of the way the "bipartisan" ratchet works at the State House this morning. The House GOP leadership isn't including any Democrats in the budget negotiations, because the Speaker says they're just too committed to the Governor's position. Of course, if they were Republicans and deviated from the leadership position, the Speaker would kick them off the committee anyway. Once again, it's heads they win, tails we lose.

East Valley Tribune, Feb. 15, 2004

Arizona Republicans took a bold stand last week. With questions raised about the quality of intelligence and decision-making by the executive branch, they swallowed hard and said any resulting investigation simply has to be independent.

But they weren’t talking about President Bush hand-picking his own Iraq intelligence commission. Bush is a Republican, and apparently the independence requirement applies only to Democrats.

The GOP did decide to follow Bush’s lead in their so-called “independent” investigation of the Lewis Prison hostage situation in one limited way -- by outsourcing the job. They’ve selected as their private investigator Maricopa County Attorney, and potential candidate for governor, Richard Romley, who announced that he’s actively considering running in 2006. What, was J.D. Hayworth too busy?

It’s an interesting ploy, giving a potential opponent a bunch of public money and a platform to investigate his potential opponent in the next election. I’ll stop complaining the instant that Republicans demand that President Bush’s political opponents name the commission to investigating him -- and that it be headed by a potential future Democratic candidate for president, like Sen. Hillary Clinton. Sauce for the gander, right?

But having rules apply only to opponents is standard operating procedure at the Legislature. House Speaker Jake Flake -- fresh from penning a newspaper column in which he claimed credit for the recent special session’s additional funding and reforms of Child Protective Services -- decided to punish two members of his GOP caucus who worked the hardest to pass the additional funding and CPS reforms.

Flake used his power as Speaker (one not invoked since Jane Hull wore the ermine back in 1990) to remove Rep. Pete Hershberger of Tucson and Rep. Tom O’Halleran of Sedona as chairs of the Human Services and Natural Resources Committees, respectively. Both representatives not only got their chairmanships revoked, they got kicked off the committees entirely.

It’s bad enough that Hershberger and O’Halleran get punished for the mortal sin of bipartisan cooperation. (Remember when George W. Bush talked about being a uniter, not a divider? That was so 20th century.) What’s even more symptomatic is that a guy from Tucson and one from Sedona get replaced by Flake’s preferred brand of Republican: yet two more East Valley conservatives.

Yes, the Arizona Republican Party is certainly a big tent. It’s just that everybody inside, especially in leadership, has to look, think, and act the same -- and live nearby, too. (It’s an added bonus if they consider me not just a flaming liberal, but a Gentile as well.)

But our final “heads we win, tails you lose” hypocrisy for the week took place in Washington, where Bush administration spokesman Scott McClellan accused those who want President Bush to release all of his military records -- after the president himself said on national TV that he’d release all of his records, “Yes, absolutely” -- of practicing “gutter politics” and “trolling for trash.” Of course, during the 1992 campaign, President George H.W. Bush demanded that Bill Clinton release all of his draft records. “He ought to level with the American people on the draft,” then-President Bush said.

McClelland explained that in 1992, demanding Clinton release his draft records wasn’t “trolling for trash” but in 2004 asking Bush to keep his promise to release his military records was, because “I think that you can expect the garbage can to be thrown at you in the 11th hour of a campaign, but not nine months before election day.”

Oh, I get it. It’s like Buddy Hackett’s joke explaining the secret of comedy: TIMING! That President Bush -- he’s such a kidder.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

AZ Dems to Lieberman: Joe Way, José

My column below on the results of the Arizona Democratic presidential preference election ran on Lincoln's Birthday instead of last Sunday. There's irony in that, I suppose (as Garry Wills noted about a decade ago, Republicans these days have little use for Lincoln other than as an excuse for a fundraiser), but it really had to do with recent difficulties in getting my emails to my editor at the Tribune. My column sat in an email inbox for three days, and apparently today was the first chance it had to run.

It really should have run on Tuesday, when the Tribune ran a Morton Kondrache piece lamenting the decline of moderates in both parties. My take is the failure of Lieberman's campaign wasn't about ideology, but rather about competence--in the general election. But I also wanted to explain why I thought, two weeks out, that Dean still had a shot in Arizona. Well, if the Kerry rumors pan out, maybe it really isn't over (and maybe John Edwards really is the world's luckiest guy).

I can recommend as the best collection of Joe! puns around as the one by William Saletan in Slate. Enjoy.

The Arizona Primary
Big turnout, demise of Lieberman indicate Democratic voters know what's at stake

East Valley Tribune, Feb. 12, 2004

Shows you how much I know, even about Democratic politics in Arizona. My predicted turnout in last week’s presidential preference election was off by only 120 percent. Instead of the 110,000 to 115,000 voters I expected, and the 150,000 that State Party Chair Jim Pederson hoped to see, over 225,000 Democrats voted last Tuesday.

Howard Dean did get over 30,000 votes, which under my turnout prediction would have finished near the top. But when more than twice as many voters showed up, those Dean votes instead represented a distant third-place finish -- meaning Dean not only lost, but may not get delegates by failing to reach the 15 percent threshold.

Two surprising things happened. First, not only did John Kerry sweep up undecided voters, but many voters formerly supporting Dean went to Kerry, which rarely happens. Second, proving that The Tribune knows what it’s doing by not making editorial endorsements, Joe Lieberman’s Arizona campaign never did recover from an endorsement by the Arizona Republic.

Apparently, the Democratic voters were pretty sophisticated political observers, who recognized that the support of people who are voting for Bush anyway isn’t worth much. Like the clock striking thirteen -- not only absurd of itself, but it also calls into question everything that came before -- the Republic endorsement caused Lieberman’s support to drop about 6 to 8 points, depending on the poll.

If the only people who really want to vote for him in February are people who won’t vote for him in November, why bother nominating the guy?

Lieberman’s failure in the Democratic primaries gets attributed to the usual lack of momentum and fundraising, but also to a failure of a conservative Democrat to appeal to a more liberal primary electorate. But in my vastly-wrong-two-weeks-ago opinion, that’s nonsense. To paraphrase Michael Dukakis, Lieberman’s failure wasn’t about ideology; it was about competence.

Not “competence” meaning that Lieberman isn’t an accomplished and well-respected senator -- he certainly is -- but competence in that Democratic voters couldn’t trust him as a candidate against George W. Bush.

Lieberman started the campaign with the highest name identification from his vice-presidential race, but the more he campaigned in a state, the more his support dropped there. He reminded too many Democrats of his faint-heartedness during the 2000 campaign, where he seemed more concerned with protecting his reputation among the political and media elite than with winning.

In his stump speech, Lieberman claimed he was the candidate the Republicans feared most because Bush couldn’t attack him. This struck most Democrats as a delusional fantasy. In other words, the “electability” issue killed Lieberman, not based on ideology or issues, but because Democrats simply didn’t trust anybody who claimed Bush and the Republicans wouldn’t attack him.

After all, we’re talking about George W. Bush here, the guy who immediately after John McCain’s victory in the New Hampshire primary shamelessly called himself “a reformer with results.” The same Bush whose supporters went after McCain in South Carolina in the most odious way -- implying that the McCain’s adopted Bangladeshi daughter was illegitimate, that McCain was the “fag candidate” for having met with the Log Cabin Republicans, having some fringe veteran denounce McCain as a “POW who came home and forgot us” -- and those are just the tactics printable in a family newspaper. If Joe Lieberman thought Bush surrogates wouldn’t say things about him that aren’t true, then Democrats realized that Lieberman would be as passive as Mike Dukakis -- without the tank helmet.

Democrats could nominate somebody Jewish for president. We’d even nominate somebody despite those terrible puns (Joe-mentum!). We’re just not going to nominate anybody that naïve.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

The Jewish Perspective

My law partner Andy Gordon is quoted (scroll about halfway down) on the Arizona primary in this past week's Jewish News of Greater Phoenix. Andy went to the Lieberman party after the election because with Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox as Lieberman's highest-profile supporter, he knew that party would have the best food.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

More Arizona Primary Media

Today's Arizona Republic on surprisingly high voter turnout here.

A better link for yesterday's KJZZ interview here.

The Horizon transcript or video isn't available on the KAET website; check here or here in about two weeks or so.

Finally, listen to The McMahon Group on 620 KTAR radio tomorrow at 11 am.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Next BIIP Pool Entry

An almost-completely serious entry from a friend of J.W.:
Sam Nunn (wishful thinking)
Zbigniew Brzezinski
George Schultz
George H.W. Bush (ha!)
BIIP Pool Entries

Here is the latest round of submissions for the Bush "Bi-partisan Intelligence Investigation Panel" pool contest:

From T.N.:
Ken Starr
Ollie North
Ahnold & Maria (hey, they said bipartisan, right?)

From C.F.:
Cheney and the "3 Tony's"...Tony Blair, Tony Perkins, and Tony Orlando

From J.G.:
Henry Kissinger
Bud Selig
Neil Bush (assuming that the paternity tests and his divorce are final so he can focus on this)
The Head of the Texas Air National Guard. . .Bush's idea of a military expert

From R.B.:
John Poindexter (who else?)
Henry Kissinger (maybe no one will call him on conflict of interest this time!)
Tom Ridge (homeland security czar must have a seat at the table)
Zbigniew Brzezinski (if we must have Democrats, this is our man--assuming Zell Miller isn't available)

From A.W.:
Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the former Iraqi Information Minister (fresh from his role in the Joe Lieberman campaign?)

Arizona Primary Media Roundup

A couple of appearances by your author:

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (with the "winning delegates is like the NASCAR point system" analogy)

My interview this morning with KJZZ-FM, Phoenix, should be posted here later today.

Current state Democratic Party chair Jim Pederson and I are guests on public television station KAET's Horizon show this evening. I believe this marks the first time Horizon has ever had two Democrats as guests. Two Republicans, plenty of times, but two Democrats? I don't think so. The primary must have been a transformative event. UPDATE: Michael Grant says they've had two Democrats on together before--earlier that week to talk about the Feb. 3 Democratic primary. But nobody could remember another time, although nobody did any checking, so perhaps the Feb. 3 primary still counts as a transformative event, even if Jim and I weren't the first Democratic tag-team.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

My Drug Plan Is Better Than Your Drug Plan

My Tribune column got bumped from Sunday to Tuesday due to an Internet worm that effectively blocked access to the newspaper's email servers. If you want to read the Jan. 27 Laura Knaperek column that got me started, it's available here. As for my response, talk about an absolutely thrilling headline--sheesh. I did, however, get the first part of the "Why are Hawyorth and Knaperek upset" line in bold as a box quote below the picture. Check it out in newspaper style here.

Prescription Coverage

East Valley Tribune, Feb. 3, 2004

Maybe some of the unsolicited “advice” I usually get from Republicans is really meant for Laura Knaperek. She’s the defeated former state legislator who’s also a Tribune columnist. (That’s one of more the tiresome criticisms I get, that because I didn’t win my last election, my arguments don’t matter. Well, she lost, too. Thanks, Harry!)

Knaperek’s last column attacked Gov. Napolitano’s senior citizen prescription drug discount program, but Knaperek sure ignored the supposedly well-intentioned advice I’ve been getting. Knaperek may dislike Gov. Napolitano’s policies, but these same advisors must have noticed how she quickly descended into vituperative personal attacks. Yes, it’s (gasp!) “Janet hatred.”

I positively blush to repeat the language Knaperek used, like “covetously dictated” and “stinks” and “obscene” and “king-size -- I mean queen-size -- sweetheart deal.” Why, it’s perfectly clear Knaperek is blinded by partisan bias and Janet hatred. It’s so irrational, isn’t it? I’m sure my critics blanched at Knaperek’s rampant emotionalism and concluded that her vindictive harangue couldn’t persuade anybody.

Exactly what I keep hearing about this so-called “Bush hatred.” But here’s the difference. Republicans use “Bush hatred” to avoid the facts. (It’s hard to argue truthfully about the budget deficit, no WMD in Iraq, and 2.3 million lost jobs.) But Democrats don’t just cry “Janet hatred!” We’re not just dismissive; we’re also substantive. So I’ll explain exactly why Knaperek is wrong, too.

Knaperek complained that Napolitano didn’t describe the new $395 billion -- no, wait, $534 billion! -- Medicare law accurately. But Knaperek didn’t say what wasn’t accurate. It’s because it isn’t humanly possible to explain the incredibly complex Medicare law on only one page. With 600 words? In your dreams.

So Knaperek instead repeated inaccurate criticisms of the Arizona program from Rep. J.D. Hayworth, another victim of the dreaded “Janet hatred” disease. (Makes sense -- you can be negative and inaccurate with 600 words.) Under all the angry rhetoric, they apparently have two complaints. First, the company administering the plan might make too much money. Second, the card isn’t “free,” because while there’s no longer an enrollment fee, there’s a per-prescription dispensing fee.

The first argument -- and Knaperek’s math exercise -- is wrong because she didn’t read the RxAmerica contract. The state can revisit the increased dispensing fee every 6 months, and the additional $1 charge disappears once the company recovers the cost of distributing 1.1 million new cards.

Anyway, why are Hayworth and Knaperek upset over a pharmaceutical company windfall? Wasn’t that the entire point of the Medicare bill, which forbid the government from negotiating discounts -- and why it will take 25 months for seniors to receive a drug benefit, but only 3 months for participating HMO’s to get higher government payments?

The second is the more puzzling criticism, because to most people, a free card means no enrollment fee -- not that there wouldn’t be a charge each time you fill a prescription. But more significantly, under the new Medicare bill Knaperek apparently loves, discount card issuers can charge an enrollment fee up to 3 times the former Arizona enrollment fee. The Medicare bill also authorizes the same dispensing fees, which the House GOP leadership describes as “almost certain” to apply. So if Knaperek thinks the dropping the enrollment fee while raising the dispensing fee $1 is a huge rip-off, wait until she gets a load of Hayworth's Medicare discount card, which will “almost certainly” have both -- and larger ones, too.

There’s more than just “Janet hatred” here. There’s also a total lack of actual evidence. Better watch it, guys; your fellow Republicans, claiming only my best interests at heart, tell me it’s not good strategy.
New Contest!

To get ready for March Madness, one of my colleagues suggests we have a "Bipartisan Intelligence Investigation Panel" pool. Name four people President Bush will name to the BIIP. Here are his picks:

Condoleeza Rice
Colin Powell
Jessica Simpson (would have been Janet Jackson, but the President fell asleep after the first half)

Here are mine:

James Baker
3 names at random from the Houston phone book

Here are my colleague's wife's picks:

Valerie Plame
George Tenet
Geraldo Rivera
Robin Williams

Got a guess to make? Send your entry to sam at cgson dot com and I'll post them all. Special tiebreaker question: What day will the BIIP be directed to submit its report? I'll take Nov. 3--the day after the election. Ha!

Monday, February 02, 2004

Jim Hoagland Has Always Been At War With Eurasia

Josh Marshall digs through the archives and shows the latest example of "up-is-downism" here.