Last week the news carried several stories about the antics of Arizona’s wacky Legislature at work. What I found interesting was that in the bowels of the Arizona Daily Star, there were related stories that could have helped our Legislators in their deliberations over anchor babies, drug smuggling, birth certificates, and gun controll– if they read the newspaper.
All of these examples are from the January 28 Star.
As Arizona’s anchor baby law takes shape, Indiana’s is struck down.
Also, from the January 28 Star, Ranchers want more high-tech border surveillance, more troupes, and more guns– while Mexicans lob pot over the fence with a catapult and build tunnels. I think the Mexicans have been watching The Tudors mini-series. Henry VIII won one of his last great great battles– against a walled city– with catapults and tunnels.
From the January 30 Star…
Businessmen are worried about Arizona’s image– which may be shifting from that of a sunshine state with low corporate taxes to a lawless state where armed crazy people wander the streets (ya think?)– and Girl Scouts are afraid they’ll be shot while selling cookies in front of grocery stores. In the meantime, Tucson State Senator Frank Antenori wants to further loosen gun laws and allow people to wander the streets at night “hunting varmints.”
Friday afternoon, Americans Against Immigration Amnesty (AAIA– a right-wing group from Utah) and the Pima County Tea Party Patriots held a Dump Dupnik Rally in front of the Sheriff’s Office.
Not to be outdone, supporters of Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik held a counter rally at the same location.
Depending upon which Arizona Daily Star article you read, either 200 or 350 people attended the rallies. (My guesstimate is about 200.) The group was pretty much evenly split between supporters and detractors of the sheriff.
Although the Star continues to report that the Dupnik recall effort is based his speech against hatred and vitriol at the press conference following the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, I contend that it is all about his anti-SB1070 stance and that his heartfelt words about hatred in America are just an excuse for action. The primary backer of the recall effort is AAIA, the brainchild of a right-wing talk radio host in Utah, is an anti-illegal immigrant/pro-SB1070 group. Locally, the Pima County Tea Party Patriots and right-wing talk radio host Jon Justice– also SB1070 aficionados– are trying to fan the recall flames. If yesterday’s rally was any indication, Dupnik has plenty of supporters in Tucson.
There was no lack of opinions or creative signage at the dueling rallies. For a taste of the events, check out the video below.
Manny Armenta, a United Steelworkers (USW) lead negotiator for miners in Sonora, Mexico and Tucson, was harassed and arrested on bogus charges in Mexico this week.
Armenta’s arrest looks suspiciously like union-busting, since it occurred a week after he led a “sound-off” event with Mexican and Arizonan miners at the Asarco Mine in Tucson. The Asarco Mine is owned by Grupo Mexico, the same multi-national corporation that employs the Mexican miners. Here’s the story from the USW.
The United Steelworkers (USW) today condemned the arrest of one of its international representatives by Mexican customs officers on Monday, [January 24, 2011].
Manny Armenta, a USW sub-district director in Albuquerque, NM, was arrested while on his way to meet with attorneys for the Mexican mineworkers’ union called Los Mineros. The USW has been supporting the mineworkers who have waged a nearly four-year strike against Grupo Mexico with a copper mine property at Cananea in Mexico’s northern state of Sonora.
At about 2 p.m. (MST), a customs officer stopped Armenta’s car, which is leased by the union, accusing him of driving a stolen vehicle. Armenta presented documentation to no avail. After searching the vehicle with dogs, the officer attempted to extort a “fine” of 185,000 pesos (about $15,000). When Armenta refused to pay he was arrested, detained overnight, and released early Tuesday, Jan. 25 after posting a bond of 80,000 pesos (about $7,750).
Amenta’s car was impounded and it has not been returned. Armenta’s wallet was taken from him in the arrest, but later returned, minus $700 in cash.
USW President Leo W. Gerard declared in a statement, “This outrageous treatment by Mexican federal authorities shows the extent of the government’s corruption.” He adds: “We demand that these bogus charges be dropped with the immediate return of the union property along with what belongs to Manny”
He said, “It is ironic that although Mexican courts have issued 20 warrants for Germán Larrea – the owner of Grupo Mexico – the government has never been able to arrest him. Yet they can arrest Manny because he is in Mexico helping the mineworkers defend their rights.”
On January 17-18, Mexican mineworker leaders joined USW copper miners who met with officials of Asarco – a copper producer also owned by Grupo Mexico – at a “sound-off” event in Tucson. The USW contract with Asarco expires in June. Armenta is a lead negotiator at Asarco.
Gerard said, “By arresting Manny, the Mexican government is trying to intimidate the USW copper miners from exercising our right to collective bargaining and showing solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Mexico.”
Commenting that Armenta was arrested on the same day the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Mexico in support of that country’s law enforcement actions on illegal drug activity, Gerard said: “I hope the U.S. State Department will put as much energy into seeking justice for Manny and for the rights of workers at Cananea as they have in praising the Mexican government.”
The USW said that they would file a formal complaint with the U.S. State Department.
For more on the USW and Los Mineros in Mexico: www.usw.org/.
Basically, Attorney General Tom Horne is using a loophole in Prop 203 (the medical marijuana law that voters passed in 2010) on which to base his sales tax ruling. The law says would-be medical marijuana patients can get a “doctors’ recommendation” for the drug– not a prescription. Prescriptions are not taxable; doctors’ recommendations are. (This is like saying your doctor recommended aspirin or multi-vitamins; when you go to buy the aspirin or multi-vitamins, they are subject to sales tax.)
Horne estimates that applying Arizona’s base sales tax + any applicable city sales taxes could bring in $40 million, a figure he extrapolates from sales in Colorado.
OK, fine, charge regular sales tax. My real issue is with Democratic State Representative Steve Farley’s proposal for a 300% sales tax on medical marijuana. Farley justifies this rate because it is the same rate as the state charges for cigarettes. There are several disconnects here.
Tobacco is highly addictive and kills more people in the US than all other substances combined. Public health advocates have pushed for ever-high tobacco taxes to encourage people to quit; cost is a research-based strategy. Originally, in Arizona and elsewhere, these tobacco tax revenues were used to prevent teens from starting to smoke, to help people quit smoking, and to treat the indigent with tobacco-related diseases. Arizona and other states have just about wiped clean all those public health programs.
Medical marijuana is a medicinal plant which provides palliative care to seriously ill patients, and its use by patients will be guided by a physician. It is not a life-threatening drug like tobacco. (Seriously, if the government took an honest look at the death and costs associated with tobacco-smoking, IT would be illegal.)
Why would you apply a tax rate that is designed to discourage use of a dangerous product to a plant that helps cancer and AIDS patients with their treatment?
I agree with Andrew Myers, who managed the Prop 203 campaign, when he says the 300% tax would put medical marijuana pricing out of reach of most people– thus killing the goose that laid the multi-million-dollar golden egg– and when he disputes Farley’s $40/ounce base price for medical marijuana. Myers calls $40/ounce a “myth”; I’d call it 1975 pricing. My sources near the university say marijuana is sold for $40-60 for 1/8 ounce. Let’s do the math for the low end price…
$40 (per 1/8 oz) x 8 = $320/oz x 2.5 oz (the amount people are allowed to buy every 2 weeks) = $800 x 300% sales tax = $2400 every 2 weeks.
This pricing would encourage the continuation of street sales. I think medical marijuana should be taxed the same as other herbal remedies (ie, ginkgo biloba, echenichia, St. John’s Wart, garlic, etc.)– 6.6% + applicable city taxes. (I can’t believe I just sided with Tom Horne.)
“We’re not wild about the idea of increasing the cost of what essentially is medication for seriously ill people,” he said, but no challenge is planned.
But Myers said what Farley wants would be challenged as illegal.
He said it’s one thing to tax marijuana like other products. A special tax, Myers said, runs afoul of a constitutional provision barring lawmakers from altering voter-approved measures.
Farley, however, said the tax is justified. He said a 300 percent levy puts the tax on marijuana at the same general level as the tax on cigarettes, which are subject to a $2-per-pack levy.
“People use cigarettes as an over-the-counter medication for various types of things,” he said. He also doubts imposing the tax alters what voters approved.
Anyway, Farley said, those who really need the marijuana won’t mind paying the extra fee. He figures marijuana sells for $40 an ounce, meaning the sales price, tax and all, would be $160.
Myers said $40 marijuana is a “myth,” and the actual price at dispensaries will be 10 times that, putting medical marijuana out of reach of many in need, particularly since the drug is not covered by health insurance.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announced today on the John C. Scott Show that it would be legal in Arizona to impose sales tax on medical marijuana. Although drug prescriptions are not subject to sales tax in Arizona, Horne said the medical marijuana law does not label the medical marijuana prescriptions specifically as a “prescription.”
At first I was annoyed but not surprised by this political maneuver from Horne. In my opinion, if medical marijuana is provided to a patient to alleviate symptoms of disease or symptoms of treatment– which is how the law is written– then it should be considered a drug and, therefore, not taxable. If marijuana were legalized and considered a recreational drug like alcohol or tobacco, it should be taxed at the same rate as other consumer goods (6.6%), which is the tax rate that I thought Horne was suggesting.
But no, that is not the case. In the Arizona Legislature today, several representatives– including southern Arizona Democrats Steve Farley, Bruce Wheeler, Olivia Cajero-Bedford, and Paula Aboud and others– sponsored a bill to charge 300% sales tax on medical marijuana– not the normal 6.6% base state sales tax. (How can this be legal?)
All I can say is WTF are you thinking? Do you have any idea how expensive cancer treatment is? Why would you think it appropriate to add 300% sales tax on one of the few (hopefully) affordable drugs available to these poor people? This is unconscionable.
CAPTION: Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik's Press Conference after the Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords
After the Tucson massacre and the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords early this month, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik called on the nation to do some soul-searching and blamed hateful, vitriolic speech for creating an atmosphere of hate in this country. Dupnik’s honesty in the face of tragedy won him hundreds– if not thousands– of supporters and enemies and catapulted him to the national stage with interviews on several television networks.
Now, a right-wing, anti-immigrant group– Americans Against Immigration Amnesty (AAIA)– from Utah has started a recall effort against Dupnik. Here is their vitriol against Dupnik from AAIA website. Compare AAIA’s totally inaccurate description of Dupnik’s comments below with the actual video footage above.
“Beginning the day of the horrific events in Tucson, Arizona that claimed the lives of 6 and injured so many others, we were deluged with emails and phone calls from members and non-members in Arizona, as well as across the United States concerning the actions of Pima County Sheriff, Clarence Dupnik. Our members and Americans in general were bewildered by the Sheriff’s shameless political grandstanding and irresponsible comments within hours of this tragedy. As one member of AAIA said, ‘the Sheriff has forever sullied his office, uniform and badge’.
In light of the requests from our members and Americans across the nation, we have completed our research, conferred with the appropriate legal experts and have concluded that the recall of Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupinik is the appropriate course on behalf of the citizens of Pima County. We will therefore proceed with such a recall effort and are preparing the Petitions to be forwarded to Pima County registered voters to begin gathering the required signatures. Our goal will be to gather 110,000 signatures in the coming weeks and this matter will promptly proceed to a recall election.”– Dan Baltes, Executive Director, Americans Against Immigration Amnesty
Americans Against Immigration Amnesty is a section 527 political organization with members in 47 states.
Why are AAIA, FOX, the Tea Party Patriots, and Justice really after Dupnik? It has absolutely nothing to do with his comments after the Tucson massacre. These groups are targeting him because he was one of the few elected officials in Arizona who took a firm stand against SB1070– Arizona’s strict anti-immigrant legislation– last year. In a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, Dupnik didn’t mince words about SB1070
I have argued from the moment that this bill was signed that it is unnecessary, that it is a travesty, and most significantly, that it is unconstitutional.
Pima County, where I am sheriff, shares 123 miles of border with Mexico. Patrolling this area for illegal immigrants is like trying to keep water from passing through a sieve.
The pro-SB1070 Pima County Tea Party Patriots (not to be confused with the Tucson Tea Party) is planning a Dump Dupnik rally for this coming Friday. There are rumblings of a counter-protest by Dupnik supporters– which locally probably outnumber his detractors. The Pima County Democratic Party is suggesting donating blood to the Red Cross as a peaceful protest to the Tea Party.
The bottomline is: the right-wing is trying to suppress freedom of speech, silence Dupnik, and intimidate politicians from speaking from their hearts. We can’t let them get away with that. I’ll let you decide what to do about it.
What does the Republican Party stand for? Small government and reduced spending. Right? Wrong. That’s their PR story, but that’s not their behavior.
The graphic above leaves little to the imagination when you look at government spending under Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan (the father of the small government ideal), George Bush I, and George Bush II (the winner of the out-of-control spending award who was helped greatly by his 100% Republican-controlled Congress.)
I offer this history lesson because in the coming weeks we are going to hear a lot of Republican rhetoric about spending cuts and balancing our budgets at the kitchen table. Keep in mind that many of the Republicans who will be spouting this new fiscal conservatism marched in lock-step with President Bush as he destroyed our economy with tax cuts and entitlement programs we couldn’t afford, AND they were involved in the Republican Congressional blockade in December 2010 when they held out for tax cuts for the richest Americans and refused to discuss any other legislation until they secured tax cuts (which we couldn’t afford) for their cronies.
The beginning is devoted to the Republican who will deliver the response to President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight. Paul Ryan, Congressman from Wisconsin, is now known as a fiscal conservative and has written the Roadmap for America’s Future which features privatization schemes and a number of draconian cuts– including cuts in Medicare and Social Security but, of course, not military spending. There is a bit of a problem with Ryan wearing the fiscal conservative mantel. You see, during the Bush II era, Ryan was one of the Congressional drunken sailors who spent like there was no tomorrow; he voted for the Republican tax cuts and unfunded expansion of Medicare under Bush II.
At about 7 minutes, Hayes talks about out-of-control spending by Bush and Reagan, and about 10 minutes, he talks with economist James Galbraith.
So, as you listen to state and federal government Republicans in the coming months, take their new-found fiscal responsibility with a grain of salt. We need to be vigilant or we will lose everything that doesn’t help the military-industrial complex.
I mentioned his connection with No Labels in my non-endorsement of either candidate on Friday but didn’t realize he was national co-founder until today, sorry loyal readers, for this mis-step.
The Rest of the Story
As venerated right-wing journalist Paul Harvey would say, today, I will report the rest of the story.
For some, at the Arizona Democratic Party State Committee Meeting, the big issue with the state chair elections was eligibility. Former Tucson City Council Member Rodney Glassman faced off with former candidate for state treasurer Andrei Cherny (who has never won an election).
Glassman’s personal issues (as annotated in excruciating detail on the Three Sonorans’ blog) aside and Cherny’s No Labels affiliation (as mentioned by no one but me) aside– there were several issues regarding Cherny’s eligibility to run for state party office.
The Three Sonorans, the Feathered Bastard and the other political bloggers tossed out or ignored those facts. It is also fascinating to me that Cherny NEVER mentioned his No Labels love affair in his speech yesterday or his Democratic Party pre-vote propaganda.
The Bylaws Controversy
Although the Three Sonorans and the Feathered Bastard want to paint the disconnect with Cherny’s candidacy and Arizona State Statute as trivial, it’s state law. Apparently, Maricopa County Democratic Party bylaws, Arizona Democratic Party bylaws, and Arizona State Statute all conflict regarding who is qualified to hold an office in an official political party. (Several people speak to this in the video.)
Excuse me… but with so many lawyers involved in politics, many at Saturday’s meeting were wondering why they didn’t see this disconnect before Saturday. Actually, according to outgoing State Chair Don Bivens, they did. Bivens said from the podium that the discrepancy was a known problem that the party had worked around it in the past, and he seemed to wonder what the big deal was this year.
There was extensive debate about this issue at the Democratic Party meeting– with multiple lawyers and politicos weighing in– including Pima County’s Jeff Rogers, Bill Risner, and Jeff Latas. (See the video below.) Risner, well known for election integrity lawsuits on behalf of Pima County, cited Arizona Revised Statute– which states that candidates for state party chair must be elected precinct committee persons and elected state committee persons– which Glassman is and Cherny isn’t.
Many theorized that Bivens, white male lawyer (see video), anointed Cherny, another white male lawyer, to be chair. (Of course, Glassman is also another white, male lawyer.) One can only speculate, but check out Bivens’ beaming smile as Cherny is elected. In my opinion, one picture tells 1000 stories.
Personally, I think Latas has a good point in the video: If you let the state chair bend the rules that lends itself to cronyism and corruption. (He clearly states in the video that he is not implying anything about the current situation.) The video below starts with the debate in the Progressive Democratic Caucus– dubbed “Progressive Wack-a-doodles” by the Feathered Bastard last week when he originally dismissed the eligibility issue. The video takes you through the whole meeting– from the morning Progressive Caucus through both candidates’ speeches (around 9 minutes) to Cherny’s election (279 Cherny – 232 Glassman).
What will be the future of Arizona’s Democratic Party under this new leadership? Only time will tell… I’m leaving an open mind but also have open eyes– not obscured by rose-colored glasses. If the party moves more toward Republican-lite, I believe this would be a huge mistake. There were hundreds of very progressive Democratic Party foot soldiers in attendance on Saturday, and the party would be remiss if it dismissed their views and glided further to the right.
CREDIT: Pamela Powers
CAPTION: The Rest of the Story: How Andrei Cherny Became Chair of the AZ Democratic Party
The Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision ruled that limiting campaign contributions from corporations limits their freedom of speech. This decision is based upon the legal precedent of corporate personhood, which gives corporations the same rights as “natural persons” (AKA real people). This ruling permitted corporations and unions to directly fund campaign advertising, a practice that had been restricted; it also cleared the way for the creation of secret campaign financing groups, which poured billions into the 2010 midterm election.
The watchdog group Common Cause is now raising the question of conflict of interest in this case. Two of the court’s most conservative justices– Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, who voted in favor of Citizens United– have been linked to Charles and David Koch, conservative billionaires who push right-wing causes with their contributions and benefited from the Citizens United ruling.
At issue is the justices attendance at soirees hosted by the Kochs. Common Cause has asked the Justice Department to investigate the connection and has asked for a re-trial if conflict of interest is found.
CREDIT: Democracy Now
CAPTION: On Anniversary of Citizens United Ruling, Common Cause Calls for Investigation of Scalia and Thomas
On Thursday, two Arizona Democratic Party luminaries– Terry Goddard and Raul Grijalva– asked the party faithful to delay the vote for new officers which is scheduled for tomorrow, January 22, 2011, in Phoenix.
Citing the need to heal and grieve after the events of January 8– when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others were shot– the two suggested re-electing the current officers for one month and rescheduling a second vote then– thus requiring statewide committee representatives from all over Arizona to schlep back to Phoenix. (See the letter below.)
I agree with the Feathered Bastard that Saturday’s election for state chair could be a “donnybrook”, although I have been calling it a dog fight. Former Tucson City Councilman and former US Senate candidate Rodney Glassman is running against former state treasurer candidate Andrei Cherny for state chair of the Democratic Party.
For months, Glassman was the only candidate, but in recent weeks Cherny entered the race. Unlike the Three Sonorans, who has come out strongly for Cherny, I have resisted backing either candidate because I believe they both have issues. I wish there was a third choice.
Obviously Glassman has burned LOTS of bridges with multiple politicians and constituencies in his short career as a politician. There is a long list of Democratic politicians who have jumped on the Cherny bandwagon in recent weeks. (I think there is a significant percentage who are backing Cherny just because he is not Glassman.) Although none of his fellow Tucson City Council members are backing him, Glassman has his supporters, most notably Congressman Raul Grijalva– Glassman’s former boss.
Cherny has been painted by some as the “shining star” in this race, but I have a problem with how this star rose in the sky. To run for state party chair, the party bylaws dictate that you must be an “elected” precinct committee person (PC)– a foot soldier of the Democratic Party. Cherny wasn’t any type of PC– elected or appointed– until after he decided to run for chair. He also is a strong supporter of the “No Labels” movement. Many are asking: Why would the Democrats elect a state chair who supports No Labels? There are so many under-informed voters in the US that if you delete the Ds and the Rs from the candidates’ names many will vote based on the last TV commercial they saw. (We all know who has the money to buy an obscene amount of TV time, and it ain’t the Democrats.)
Greasing the skids and bending the rules to shoe-horn Cherny into the state chair election is a fix, as I said on Steve Leal’s “All Things Political” radio show. The Cherny supporters should just own up to it, in my opinion, but that kinda tarnishes the shining star.
Anyway, given Glassman’s history (on multiple levels) and the political fix behind Cherny– I don’t support either one.
The Pima Dems’ Reorganization Meeting was on January 8. After about 2 hours of confusion trying to find out more about Gabby and fellow Democratic Party volunteers, we came together and voted in our officers.
Asking for a delay of tomorrow’s votes isn’t about Gabby. The party machine doesn’t want the election to blow up in the press– which it already is. Multiple political bloggers will be at tomorrow’s event. Several bloggers are Democratic Party PCs and will vote; others are going to cover it. Stay tuned.
The Democrats should vote on Saturday, as planned.
Goddard-Grijalva e-mail to Democrats asking for a delay of vote. (Image Credit: Feathered Bastard, Phoenix New Times
Pamela Powers Hannley writes the Tucson Progressive blog on the TucsonCitizen.com and contributes articles to the Huffington Post and Salon.com. She has had more than 30 years of experience in written, visual, and electronic communication—including freelance writing, photography, graphic design, and consulting. In addition to blogging for the Citizen, she is the Managing Editor of an international medical research journal.
Hannley has authored medical research articles, print magazine and newspaper stories, and numerous cancer prevention and self-help publications.
She has been a blogger since 2006, joined the ranks of Tucson Citizen bloggers in October 2010, and started contributing to the Huffington Post in 2011 and to Salon.com in 2012.
Hannley holds a masters’ degree in public health from The University of Arizona and a bachelors’ degree in journalism from The Ohio State University. She is a native of Amherst, Ohio but has lived in Tucson since 1981.