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.

No comments: