Property Rights, Markets, and Feldman’s Fight for Neighborhood Preservation

In the early part of the twentieth century, the University of Arizona occupied a quaint, two story, brick building now referred to as “Old Main”. Meanwhile, not far away, a number of “sanatoriums” were being built for TB patients from across the country. The neighborhood north of Speedway was nicknamed “Lung Hill.” Today the University of Arizona has metastasized into a gigantic sports, research, and educational facility with an international student body that numbers around 38,000. “Lung Hill” is now the Feldman’s Historic District and Neighborhood Association, in which many of the sanatorium buildings, along with homes of the same vintage, still stand. The Feldman’s neighborhood is primarily residential, composed of both owner-occupied and rented houses, with a mix of university employees, students, and others.

As the university student population has ballooned – doubling over the last few decades – the market for student housing has increased concomitantly. Naturally, areas around the university have seen an increase in student residents. Often a parent would lease, or even purchase, a house near the university and the child, along with any number of friends, would occupy it. Eventually, developers began to respond to the market demand by building rental structures designed for the student customer – they were nicknamed “mini-dorms”.

Long established residents of these neighborhoods suddenly realized that they did not live in gated communities, and as Dylan said, “The times they are a-changin'”. The folks in Feldman’s Historic District and Neighborhood Association were on the cutting edge of these changes, and they did not like it one bit. Seeing, or seeking, no alternative, they sought the force of government to freeze time and turn their neighborhood into a preserve.

Of course, a villain was necessary. The obvious one is the University of Arizona. Its inability to provide accommodations for its students is the root of the problem. The behavior of students themselves, not their existence, is the problem itself. One might even blame the residents themselves for not protecting the neighborhood with extreme zoning before now. Somehow, all these parties were overlooked, and the mini-dorm developer, Michael Goodman, became the bad guy.

Look, I would not want affordable student housing in my neighborhood either. However, I find it hard to condemn a developer who is satisfying a need in the community while staying within zoning laws and codes. He also purchased the land he wished to change. He did not seek the help of city government to force a change on other people’s property. A primary function of property rights is to settle the question of land use. If you want to call the shot, you buy the property. The alternative is large protracted fights over land use with some arbiter assigning a solution that pleases nobody. The idea of ownership also tends to direct land to the best use. For example, a couple with children would be willing to pay more for a four bedroom house than a retired couple, so they each end up in suitable houses. In fact, professionals often buy properties on which to build structures to satisfy a local need. Then they become the villain.

While Feldman’s may have no choice but to resort to extreme zoning – the approval of the development manual and NPZ overlay – other neighborhoods might take some preemptive action. Imagine a neighborhood that came together and pooled some resources and bought up the properties that came up for sale. Once there was a consensus, the residents could contract with each other to adhere to guidelines regarding the properties that went above and beyond the zoning. They could get the city to give them the streets and public areas, abandon the rights of way, etc. They could limit access, take responsibility for the roads, and be at peace with each other, like a gated community.

I know that gated communities are not at all “cool”, but we’re not posing here. Look, people talk a lot about loving “diversity”, but they don’t mean it. I’m sure many of the residents of Feldman’s Historic District and Neighborhood Association hold “diversity” close to their hearts, until it arrives on their streets. They then clamor for tighter zoning. The point of zoning laws, my friends, is to prevent diversity. No family wants to live by a meat packer, a mini-dorm, or a 24-hour coffee shop.

Hopefully, the example of Feldman’s will lead to securing neighborhoods through co-operative rather than combative methods.

Tucson Elections Wrap-up

The votes have been cast, and Tucsonans sent clear messages regarding the ballot proposals. Council races are now official.


Richard Fimbres won Ward V beating Shaun McCluskey. Karin Uhlich hangs on to Ward III by 195 votes beating Ben Beuhler-Garcia. Steve Kozachick upsets incumbent Nina Trasoff in Ward VI by well over 1,000 votes.

Props 401 and 402, TUSD Overrides:

Both attempts by Tucson Unified School District to exceed its its budgets limits were defeated, both by substantial 20 point margins. The failure reflects a basic distrust among Tucsonans. From the many financial scandals, to the “Post Unitary Status Plan”. Greg Patterson of Espresso Pundit credits the controversial “La Raza” (The Race) program.

Young man with Karin Uhlich tee-shirt holds SEIU generated ant-prop 200 sign at Tea Party

Prop 200, Public Safety:

This ill-conceived proposal would mandate specific police and fire response times, officer/population ratios, etc.The idea was to force the council to fund basic services rather than pet projects, favored charities, and payoffs to supporters. The promotion effort was terrible, and the Left seized on the general anti-tax mood to attack the proposal. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) activists were seen at the last Tucson Tea Party parading around with signs saying that Prop 200 would increase taxes. It lost 70% to 30%

Election Night Republican Party Party

On election night, November 3, 2009, the Democrats met at Club Congress downtown – their usual venue. For whatever reason, the Republicans chose Chuy’s on Tanque Verde. Chuy’s was crowded, noisy, and too poorly lighted outside to take good pictures. The patio was nice, however, and since it was “Bike Night”, there were lots of cool motorcycles to view.

Many Republican activists were there, along with many candidates – not just the three city council candidates, but many state and federal 2010 hopefuls. Mayor Bob Walkup showed up long enough to give a few interviews and leave. Though a Republican, Mayor Walkup is not very popular with members of the party. He did nothing for the Republican city council candidates, and when asked for an endorsement by Steve Kozachick, he refused saying that if Kozachick lost it wold make it harder for him to work with the Democrats. At one point, while Walkup was speaking with Sate Representative Frank Antenori, a Republican activist shook Walkup’s hand and thanked him for all the work he did on behalf of the Republican candidates. When some people began to laugh, Walkup asked Antenori at what were people laughing. Antenori replied, “He was making fun of you, and you deserve it.”

The Republicans stayed til closing with no clear victories. Bob Westerman, Pima County Republican Party Chairman, he would ask for recounts if necessary.

Update: As of Wednesday morning, Democrat Richard Fimbres appears to have won in Ward V over Shaun McCluskey. The other races are still too close to call, though Kozachick has a slight lead over Trasoff in Ward VI and Uhlich has a slight lead over Buehler-Garcia in Ward III.

Teaching Injustice

Dr. Ben Chavis, a Native American from North Carolina who earned both a bachelor’s degree and doctoral degree in education from the University of Arizona, took over a failing charter school in Oakland, California. He instituted high academic standards, and was a tough disciplinarian who passed out detentions freely. Dr. Chavis’ American Indian Public Charter School (AIPCS) has been consistently rated in the top five of the roughly 1300 junior high schools in California.

Back in the Old Pueblo, I heard Michael Block in a radio interview discuss one of his motivations for starting the Basis charter school here in Tucson and Scottsdale. Basis, you may recall, has been consistently rated one of the best high schools in the country by Newsweek magazine. Anyway, he had two daughters who moved from Europe to the U.S. and entered a Scottsdale public school. They learned English by attending school and watching television. According to Michael Block, they were treated very well, accepted and welcomed, but they were not learning anything academically. He started his own school with high academic standards, and the rest is history.

Meanwhile, Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) is preoccupied with “diversity”, and “social justice.”

TUSD’s “Post Unitary Status Plan” (PDF copy available online), adopted in July of 2009, contains the following: “Each school’s plan should specifically address the academic needs of African American and Hispanic students who are not performing at grade level and or meeting the standards as assessed by Terra Nova and AIMS. Each plan should also address the issue of underrepresentation in Honors, AP, and Gifted programs…”

Yikes! Let me break it down for you brothah.

“Each school’s plan should specifically address the academic needs of African American and Hispanic students who are not performing at grade level and or meeting the standards as assessed by Terra Nova and AIMS.” This is a good idea, but how about the Anglos, Asians, or Native Americans who are failing? Is that not a problem too? Now before you question why I included Asians, let’s just say that it is possible that an Asian kid might be failing in some school somewhere, hey, all I’m saying is that it could happen. Anyway, “equality” is repeated throughout the document as an important principal. Are some kids are more equal than others?

“Each plan should also address the issue of underrepresentation in Honors, AP, and Gifted programs.” It’s always been my understanding that these programs are not legislatures with every group having equal representation. Participation is based on individual merit, which makes over or under representation meaningless. Believing that demographic patterns for those in special programs must match the demographic patterns of the school as a whole is like saying that each time the dice are tossed they must add up to seven. The fact is that sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, because they are unrelated. When Ronald Reagan was governor of California, he supported colorblind admissions standards for the state college system. Some tried to frighten him by saying that if there were no affirmative action admission standards the student body would be eighty per cent Asian; to which he replied, “So what?”

If you want to see how deeply destructive this document gets, go to the “Discipline” section. In it you will find the following: “As appropriate, the Department of Student Equity will interact with each school to review suspension data (in-school and out-of-school). School data that show disparities in suspension/expulsion rates will be examined in detail for root causes. Special attention will be dedicated to data regarding African American and Hispanic students.” And, “The Equity Team will ensure that disciplinary policies focus on improving students’ future behavior, rather than inflicting punishment, and that they represent a commitment to social justice for all students.” Finally, the ultimate attack on the individual. Now, not even punishment for breaking the rules relates to behavior. In fact, punishment itself is passe’.

So now we teach children that they are not responsible for what they do. Bad actions do not lead to bad consequences. Everyone is equal, except that some are more equal than others. We are no longer committed to justice for all; rather, we are committed to social justice for all. I don’t know what “social justice” is, but it is not “justice” – hence the addition of “social.”

I understand that TUSD really wants that desegregation money, but if you have to do this to the children, is it really worth it?

President Obama’s Celebrity Turns Creepy

Many people were a bit creeped-out by president Obama’s school lecture to the kiddies. It is important to understand that it was not the fact that the president was speaking to the kiddies, but the “Dear Leader” manner in which it was planned.

It was not broadcast on a Saturday morning, nor was it a clip on the news. It was done as part of the school curriculum, where attendance is compulsory. It also included, originally, a teacher guide that included exercises such as writing a letter to oneself abut how one could help the president, which was then collected to be distributed when appropriate to hold the individual accountable.

Now we see this video that apparently preceded the speech to schoolchildren:

Anybody care to deny the pattern here?

In the Graffiti Colony

Graffiti is the bane of Tucson residents. It is generally ugly, costly, and is an indicator (like broken windows) of a crime-ridden neighborhood. I’ll take it a step further, and claim that it is bad for the perpetrators. It is a tool for minors to develop their ant-social, even solipsistic tendencies.

No part of Tucson, certainly no part of mid-town, is untouched by graffiti. Individuals and neighborhood groups are engaged in an endless campaign to clean up after these proto-vandals. The City of Tucson assists residents in this effort by offering classes in graffiti abatement, and providing removal services. In fact, before the City of Tucson started experiencing budget constraints, it used to hire a contractor with two paint trucks to professionally color-match and paint over graffiti. A telephone call would dispatch a team to the scene of the crime.

Meanwhile, in another part of the municipal government, a how-to-do-graffiti class was both facilitated and subsidized. You may recall the mural spray painted on the side of a Tucson Water building downtown. It was the product of a class taught by “graffiti artist” Rocky Martinez. Mr. Martinez teaches a graffiti-art program for the City of Tucson called Arts in Reality. Accorfing to the Red Star, the program is funded in part by $8,000.00 from Regina Romero’s discretionary youth fund.

Here’s a money saving idea: the City of Tucson should decide if it wants to discourage graffiti, or promote it; then it could discontinue either the abatement efforts, or the how-to classes. Does that make sense, or am I missing something? The reaction of the public, particularly those who live in the vicinity of the “mural’, might have provided some direction to the City, but no, it went directly into silk-purse-from-sow’s-ear mode.

Everybody got together and talked with everybody else and decided to repaint the wall with more pleasing imagery. Everybody spoke of the community coming together and about what a great learning experience it was for the kids. However, all of this wishful thinking pablum pointedly avoided the problem – the kids were still being taught how to deface buildings. I know, they were told that it must not be done illegally, and a bunch of other cover-your-keester crap, but the promoters of that line are only fooling themselves. The new “mural” was unveiled in a ceremony on August 25.

The situation is Kafkaesque. It reminds me of his short story, “In the Penal Colony.” As you may recall, the story tells of a traveler who visits a penal colony where he witnesses an execution. The method is brutal. The prisoner is put in a machine that carves the name of his offense in his back, repeatedly, until he dies. It is an all day affair. The traveler sees this as barbaric, while the operator of the machine sees it as a good thing that brings the community together (there was a large gallery), and it really is art, you see, since the offense is written in beautiful swirling caligraphy. The prisoner himself figures out the message about ten to twelve hours into it, and seems to achieve a certain peace, according to the operator. If you guessed that the traveler is the people, the prisoner the kids, and the operator Regina Romero, move to the head of the class. At this point I must say that it is important to understand that the operator was not bad or evil, he just missed the larger point.

Everybody needs a hobby, especially kids, especially kids with too much time on their hands. There are lots of private groups and organizations that provide positive activities for children. I know of none that teach “graffiti art.” What do they know that the City does not?

Iranian Election – Stratfor’s Perspective

While many of us in the West, perhaps I should say “here in the U.S.A.”, imagine the Iranian citizenry on the verge of toppling the Iranian theocracy, we may be engaging in a little wishful thinking.

The following is an interesting take on the Iranian election from private intelligence firm Stratfor (

Western Misconceptions Meet Iranian Reality
June 15, 2009

Graphic for Geopolitical Intelligence Report

By George Friedman
Related Link

* The Geopolitics of Iran: Holding the Center of a Mountain Fortress

Related Special Topic Page

* The Iranian Presidential Elections

In 1979, when we were still young and starry-eyed, a revolution took place in Iran. When I asked experts what would happen, they divided into two camps.

The first group of Iran experts argued that the Shah of Iran would certainly survive, that the unrest was simply a cyclical event readily manageable by his security, and that the Iranian people were united behind the Iranian monarch’s modernization program. These experts developed this view by talking to the same Iranian officials and businessmen they had been talking to for years — Iranians who had grown wealthy and powerful under the shah and who spoke English, since Iran experts frequently didn’t speak Farsi all that well.

The second group of Iran experts regarded the shah as a repressive brute, and saw the revolution as aimed at liberalizing the country. Their sources were the professionals and academics who supported the uprising — Iranians who knew what former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini believed, but didn’t think he had much popular support. They thought the revolution would result in an increase in human rights and liberty. The experts in this group spoke even less Farsi than the those in the first group.
Misreading Sentiment in Iran

Limited to information on Iran from English-speaking opponents of the regime, both groups of Iran experts got a very misleading vision of where the revolution was heading — because the Iranian revolution was not brought about by the people who spoke English. It was made by merchants in city bazaars, by rural peasants, by the clergy — people Americans didn’t speak to because they couldn’t. This demographic was unsure of the virtues of modernization and not at all clear on the virtues of liberalism. From the time they were born, its members knew the virtue of Islam, and that the Iranian state must be an Islamic state.

Americans and Europeans have been misreading Iran for 30 years. Even after the shah fell, the myth has survived that a mass movement of people exists demanding liberalization — a movement that if encouraged by the West eventually would form a majority and rule the country. We call this outlook “iPod liberalism,” the idea that anyone who listens to rock ‘n’ roll on an iPod, writes blogs and knows what it means to Twitter must be an enthusiastic supporter of Western liberalism. Even more significantly, this outlook fails to recognize that iPod owners represent a small minority in Iran — a country that is poor, pious and content on the whole with the revolution forged 30 years ago.

There are undoubtedly people who want to liberalize the Iranian regime. They are to be found among the professional classes in Tehran, as well as among students. Many speak English, making them accessible to the touring journalists, diplomats and intelligence people who pass through. They are the ones who can speak to Westerners, and they are the ones willing to speak to Westerners. And these people give Westerners a wildly distorted view of Iran. They can create the impression that a fantastic liberalization is at hand — but not when you realize that iPod-owning Anglophones are not exactly the majority in Iran.

Last Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected with about two-thirds of the vote. Supporters of his opponent, both inside and outside Iran, were stunned. A poll revealed that former Iranian Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi was beating Ahmadinejad. It is, of course, interesting to meditate on how you could conduct a poll in a country where phones are not universal, and making a call once you have found a phone can be a trial. A poll therefore would probably reach people who had phones and lived in Tehran and other urban areas. Among those, Mousavi probably did win. But outside Tehran, and beyond persons easy to poll, the numbers turned out quite different.

Some still charge that Ahmadinejad cheated. That is certainly a possibility, but it is difficult to see how he could have stolen the election by such a large margin. Doing so would have required the involvement of an incredible number of people, and would have risked creating numbers that quite plainly did not jibe with sentiment in each precinct. Widespread fraud would mean that Ahmadinejad manufactured numbers in Tehran without any regard for the vote. But he has many powerful enemies who would quickly have spotted this and would have called him on it. Mousavi still insists he was robbed, and we must remain open to the possibility that he was, although it is hard to see the mechanics of this.
Ahmadinejad’s Popularity

It also misses a crucial point: Ahmadinejad enjoys widespread popularity. He doesn’t speak to the issues that matter to the urban professionals, namely, the economy and liberalization. But Ahmadinejad speaks to three fundamental issues that accord with the rest of the country.

First, Ahmadinejad speaks of piety. Among vast swathes of Iranian society, the willingness to speak unaffectedly about religion is crucial. Though it may be difficult for Americans and Europeans to believe, there are people in the world to whom economic progress is not of the essence; people who want to maintain their communities as they are and live the way their grandparents lived. These are people who see modernization — whether from the shah or Mousavi — as unattractive. They forgive Ahmadinejad his economic failures.

Second, Ahmadinejad speaks of corruption. There is a sense in the countryside that the ayatollahs — who enjoy enormous wealth and power, and often have lifestyles that reflect this — have corrupted the Islamic Revolution. Ahmadinejad is disliked by many of the religious elite precisely because he has systematically raised the corruption issue, which resonates in the countryside.

Third, Ahmadinejad is a spokesman for Iranian national security, a tremendously popular stance. It must always be remembered that Iran fought a war with Iraq in the 1980s that lasted eight years, cost untold lives and suffering, and effectively ended in its defeat. Iranians, particularly the poor, experienced this war on an intimate level. They fought in the war, and lost husbands and sons in it. As in other countries, memories of a lost war don’t necessarily delegitimize the regime. Rather, they can generate hopes for a resurgent Iran, thus validating the sacrifices made in that war — something Ahmadinejad taps into. By arguing that Iran should not back down but become a major power, he speaks to the veterans and their families, who want something positive to emerge from all their sacrifices in the war.

Perhaps the greatest factor in Ahmadinejad’s favor is that Mousavi spoke for the better districts of Tehran — something akin to running a U.S. presidential election as a spokesman for Georgetown and the Lower East Side. Such a base will get you hammered, and Mousavi got hammered. Fraud or not, Ahmadinejad won and he won significantly. That he won is not the mystery; the mystery is why others thought he wouldn’t win.

For a time on Friday, it seemed that Mousavi might be able to call for an uprising in Tehran. But the moment passed when Ahmadinejad’s security forces on motorcycles intervened. And that leaves the West with its worst-case scenario: a democratically elected anti-liberal.

Western democracies assume that publics will elect liberals who will protect their rights. In reality, it’s a more complicated world. Hitler is the classic example of someone who came to power constitutionally, and then preceded to gut the constitution. Similarly, Ahmadinejad’s victory is a triumph of both democracy and repression.
The Road Ahead: More of the Same

The question now is what will happen next. Internally, we can expect Ahmadinejad to consolidate his position under the cover of anti-corruption. He wants to clean up the ayatollahs, many of whom are his enemies. He will need the support of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This election has made Ahmadinejad a powerful president, perhaps the most powerful in Iran since the revolution. Ahmadinejad does not want to challenge Khamenei, and we suspect that Khamenei will not want to challenge Ahmadinejad. A forced marriage is emerging, one which may place many other religious leaders in a difficult position.

Certainly, hopes that a new political leadership would cut back on Iran’s nuclear program have been dashed. The champion of that program has won, in part because he championed the program. We still see Iran as far from developing a deliverable nuclear weapon, but certainly the Obama administration’s hopes that Ahmadinejad would either be replaced — or at least weakened and forced to be more conciliatory — have been crushed. Interestingly, Ahmadinejad sent congratulations to U.S. President Barack Obama on his inauguration. We would expect Obama to reciprocate under his opening policy, which U.S. Vice President Joe Biden appears to have affirmed, assuming he was speaking for Obama. Once the vote fraud issue settles, we will have a better idea of whether Obama’s policies will continue. (We expect they will.)

What we have now are two presidents in a politically secure position, something that normally forms a basis for negotiations. The problem is that it is not clear what the Iranians are prepared to negotiate on, nor is it clear what the Americans are prepared to give the Iranians to induce them to negotiate. Iran wants greater influence in Iraq and its role as a regional leader acknowledged, something the United States doesn’t want to give them. The United States wants an end to the Iranian nuclear program, which Iran doesn’t want to give.

On the surface, this would seem to open the door for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Former U.S. President George W. Bush did not — and Obama does not — have any appetite for such an attack. Both presidents blocked the Israelis from attacking, assuming the Israelis ever actually wanted to attack.

For the moment, the election appears to have frozen the status quo in place. Neither the United States nor Iran seem prepared to move significantly, and there are no third parties that want to get involved in the issue beyond the occasional European diplomatic mission or Russian threat to sell something to Iran. In the end, this shows what we have long known: This game is locked in place, and goes on.

Government Spending in the New Millenium

The Federal Government is behaving like children in an elementary school class who are learning about the legislative process by putting together a make-believe budget. Unfortunately, the is no adult to interrupt them and explain that in the real world adults can’t spend twice as much as they take in, and that quadrupling the debt over the next ten years is very bad.

At least Tucson’s politicians made the effort and balanced the budget. They did it with spending cuts, and a collection of new taxes, and tax increases, that were disparate enough not to raise anyone’s ire. They ranged from a new tax on hotel room stays, to an increase in the city environmental (trash) fee – a fee that both Nina Trasoff and Karin Uhlich condemned when they ran for the offices they now hold. Both Trasoff and Uhlich are up for re-election this fall. I doubt that they have anti-trash fee planks in their current platforms.

It is disappointing that they did not adjust spending down to match the revenues without increasing the tax burden. I would like to see both spending and taxation reduced. In fact, I have an idea.

I was poking around in the Tucson City budgets of the past few years, looking for inappropriate spending. What, you may ask, does “inappropriate” mean? Well, I suppose that there are those who cannot conceive of inappropriate government spending, but the rest of us would probably have some definite ideas concerning it. For example, who would support the City of Tucson opening a local chain of restaurants, or the United States of America buying up most of the domestic automobile industry? These are extreme cases, but they make good examples.

I think that most would agree that city/county government should supply police and fire protection, some basic infrastructure (roads and sewers), and conflict resolution (courts). Then it should just get out of the way.

So I saw this category in the budget called “Outside Agencies”. These are organizations that are not part of the City government; they administer themselves, yet they are funded in part by the City of Tucson. These are mostly charities that provide services under the city’s “Human Services Plan.” They seem to me to be, for the most part, good agencies, with good people, who perform good works. The City of Tucson should stop funding them. The weaning should begin immediately.

I can hear it already, “Whoa! Dude! You said they do good work! Why shut them down?” Actually, I have no desire to shut down any service organization. I do, however, think it inappropriate for the city government to get in the way of the citizens charitable giving. To whom one wants to offer charity should be an individual’s personal choice, and no one should be forced to support a charity not of his choosing. These organizations will do just fine with direct voluntary funding.

It is easy to fall into the delusion that doors will close, windows will be shuttered, and society will collapse if government does not fully fund everything. When I heard that the City canceled the Fourth of July fireworks display to save fifty grand, I assumed that it was over. Silly me! Within a day of the announcement, individuals and local businesses threw so much money at the City for the Fourth of July celebration that they not only had enough to proceed, but it started a fund for next year! If individuals and businesses in our community will fall all over themselves to save a fireworks display, do you really think that they would drop the ball when it came to youth programs, domestic violence prevention, or programs for the elderly?

Look at it this way; if there is an interest among the people to support the work of an organization, they will support it directly. If there is little support among the people, and the government represents the people, how can the government justify funding that organization? Gotcha!

The bottom line difference between free choice support and government tax money support is force. Charity freely given benefits both the donor and the recipient. Money taken involuntarily, ultimately by force, and given to an outside agency, changes the relationship between government and the citizenry. It also inhibits character development by relieving people of adult responsibilities.

It is un-American for a government to point a gun at a citizen and tell him which charities he likes.

Commies on Parade

Recently, I was chatting about local politics with a friend and he said that a couple of members of the Tucson City Council were to speak at the upcoming May Day rally. For those of you who do not know, May Day (the first day in May), also known as International Workers Day, is the big commie holiday of the year. I thought, “A commie rally, right here in River City!” and marked my calendar, determined to attend.

At the last minute, I invited an amateur photographer friend named Eric to come along. I thought that my being accompanied by a guy with a big fancy camera would make me look like some kind of journalist, and he would get a chance to shoot people – photographically speaking. I picked him up on the morning of May the first, and after breakfast, went to the Southgate Shopping Plaza where the commies were gathering for the parade.

The gathering was actually just south of Southgate. There was a small crowd milling about before a podium from which impassioned speeches, maybe rants (it was hard to tell, most of it was in Spanish) were being delivered.

I suppose I’m showing my age when I say that I was a little surprised to see no hammers and sickles, red stars, or pictures of Marx and Lenin.

In their place, were a few Obama tee shirts, and a large banner proclaiming “Obama We Trust in You, Si Se Puede!” The phrase “Si Se Puede!” (Yes We Can!) was originally a slogan of the United Farm Workers, a labor union formed by Cesar Chavez and Delores Huerta. The Obama campaign adopted the slogan as its own for the purpose, we can assume, of showing solidarity with a “community organizer” of an earlier generation, and securing the lefty Latino vote.

I saw a few college-aged kids in SEIU tee shirts. The SEIU (Service Employees International Union) was formed, as I recall, because the AFL-CIO was not doing enough to advocate leftist politics. They focus, as the name suggests, on representing service industry workers – a labor sector generally ignored by older, more mainstream unions.

There were a few guys dressed up in spectacular Aztec costumes. They wore huge plumed headdresses, and seashells around their ankles. They were quite striking and handsome.

Of course, there was a banner comparing Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to Nazis.

They formed a parade line, and moved north on Sixth Avenue, the right lane of which was cordoned off for the marchers. Groups within the parade were chanting different slogans.

The parade’s destination was Armory Park. Eric and I drove to the spot before the parade arrived. The entire park was surrounded with that plastic net barrier material with entrances at the corners.

As we entered, I was approached by a smiling woman with a clipboard who, with a happy lilting voice, invited me to sign a petition. I was really focused on observation that day, and did not want to deal with the relative merits of this or that petition. I told her that I was not registered to vote (I lied). She said, “Oh that’s O.K., you don’t have to be.” I asked about what the petition was. She replied, “We just want to spank Joe Arpaio.” I said, “I really would prefer not to, but thank you.” Suddenly, her face went stern. She glared at me as if to disrupt my cell structure with the energy emanating from her expression. I quickly began to walk away, figuring that for every three feet of distance I put between us would reduce by half the force of her glare weapon.

We walked to the corner at which the parade was to arrive. It was here that I suffered two embarrassments.

First, I looked at a large memorial to the soldiers of the Spanish-American War. It featured a life-size statue of a soldier from the period, and listed the different theaters of battle in the war, one of which was Puerto Rico. It was spelled “Porto Rico”. We were not alone in noticing the gaffe.

Next, were the protesters. Now, I always roll my eyes when someone describes those who have reservations about open borders as “toothless white guys in camouflage clothing.” Well, there were a few protesters, and as you might have guessed by now, there was a guy with the megaphone who was a toothless white guy dressed in military clothing complete with booney hat – O.K., I don’t know if he was actually toothless, in fact he probably wasn’t because his diction was excellent, but why present yourself that way?

Frankly, I find it really counter productive for fewer than half a dozen angry people to harass a bunch of commies celebrating their holiday. It just reinforces the stereotype with the young people there who no doubt were not impressed by the sign saying, “Go Home and Un-F*** Mexico.”

That sign was particularly aggravating because there is an underlying point that was obscured by its quite vulgar and offensive nature. If all the ambitious, hardworking risk takers abandon Mexico to find work abroad, how will the country be maintained? As Thomas P.M. Barnett said, “The rich want protection from the poor, the poor want protection from their condition, but the middle class wants protection from the future.” It is this concern for the future that gives a society stability and continuity from generation to generation. Mexico will become a failed state if the people who could be building her middle class abandon her instead.

Anyway, after the parade arrived, everyone filled the park. There was a stage set up with a band. A speaker went the microphone and, after doing the usual greetings to the attendees, announced that there would be no speakers, just a fun party. She did make a point of thanking councilmen Regina Romero and Nina Trasoff for all their help in supporting the event.

We wandered around looking at the tables and booths. Many groups were represented including Comite de Derechos Humanos, Democrat Party recruiting, ACORN, and CPUSA (Communist Party USA). The live music was great, and many of the young people were dancing.

The most telling image was of the CPUSA table, compared to the ACORN booth next to it. The CPUSA table consisted of a folding table with a few pamphlets, a hand made sign, and an old geezer in a ball cap to answer questions. The ACORN booth had big banners saying “Health Care Can’t Wait”, and “Foreclosure Free Zone”. There were three people man the large sized booth answering questions and selling tee shirts.

CPUSA has pretty much disappeared as a political force in America. It’s a throwback to the days when the left thought it could argue it’s case honestly, above board, and win. That does not work, and the geezer obviously did not get the memo.

The modern approach is to infect and commandeer disaffected groups whose generally noble causes they transform into anti-American weapons. In that way, they can push the agenda while maintaining an innocent front. This is the future of the movement. If you want examples of groups who are in the sway of the far left, you need look no farther than the groups who came to celebrate this May Day.

What can we do about this threat? First, we must be quick to draw attention to deception and dishonesty (remember, they lose when they are honest), then we must stop tax money from going to support their political activities – this is a mater of principle and applies to all, not just the commies. Finally, we vote out of office any elected official who supports them.

As luck would have it, both Regina Romero and Nina Trasoff are up for re-election this fall, so the last part is easy.

Christian America

The cover of the April 8, 1966 issue of Time magazine posed the question, “Is God Dead?” More recently, The April 13, 2009 issue of Newsweek magazine boasted a cover story entitled, “The End of Christian America.” Time magazine was wrong in 1966, and Newsweek magazine is wrong in 2009.

Well, Time was certainly wrong in 1966, but what of today? Are we not in a post-modern, progressive, enlightened era? After all, books promoting atheism seem to be all the rage. Last year alone saw the publishing of a plethora of books arguing the atheists’ case. Heavy weights Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), and Christopher Hitchens (God is not Great) led the way.

I thought it would be interesting to check out the local Christian scene. After all, if God is dead anywhere in Arizona, would that place not be progressive and enlightened Tucson?

Easter was fast approaching, and it seemed to me a good occasion to observe a Christian service. As luck would have it, Calvary Chapel Tucson was having a free “Resurrection Celebration” downtown at the Civic Center Arena on Easter Sunday. I decided to attend.

I have only vague recollections of my last rock concert, but this was definitely bigger. The traffic on Broadway Blvd. heading downtown was backed up almost to the Snake Bridge. Once I was on Congress, I thought I would be clever and work my way around to Stone Avenue, then to Cushing Street where I would park on the street by the Civic Center – I often did this when attending gun shows there. Alas, all the street parking was taken, and it appeared that the neighborhood streets were filled as well. I got in line for the main parking lot, which turned out to be full. There was a dirt lot across the street in back where I managed to find a spot.

While walking along with the crowd, I realized that I still held many of my childhood ideas of what church was like. In New England, where I spent my childhood, that meant a room filled with old, gray haired men in suits and old women in navy or maroon suits and white gloves.

The crowd with which I moved along was diverse in both ethnicity and age. Even the dress ran the gamut. Many women wore their Easter outfits – pastel sun dresses with white shoes. Others, mostly young and middle-aged mothers, were more plainly dressed; though they put pretty dresses on their girls. Some, mostly the young, were inappropriately dressed for the occasion; I confess to being old school in that regard.

Inside the arena was like, well, an arena. The seats were packed with people, there were two huge video screens, and on stage was a warm-up band playing inspirational music.

Pastor Furrow gave a great sermon. A pastor for 28 years, he was excellent at connecting with the audience. He came off as a regular guy speaking to peers. He actually told the following joke: A man was touring the Holy Land with his family, including his mother-in-law, with whom he had strained relations. While they were in Jerusalem, the mother-in-law died. The man went to see the funeral director, who said, “The bad news is that it will cost $5,000.00 to send her home for burial. The good news is that it will cost $150.00 to bury right here, in the Holy Land.” The man thought for a while and said, “Send her home.” The shocked funeral director said, “Why would you send her home for $5,000.00, when you can bury her here, In the Holy Land, for $150.00?” The man said, “Look, two thousand years ago a guy died and was buried here, then he came back to life. I don’t want to take any chances.”

I’m really bad at judging the size of crowds, but I suspect the people numbered in four figures.

Meanwhile, in California, Rick Warren draws about 20,000,000 people a week to his Saddleback Community Church (205 people attended the first service at Saddleback in 1980). You may have heard of him, he gave the invocation at President Obama’s inauguration. He also authored the book, A Purpose Driven Life.

While declines in the Catholic Church, and others, are often cited in the likes of Newsweek and Time, little attention has been paid to the dramatic growth in non-denominational, evangelical churches like Calvary and Saddleback. Are Christian churches changing? Sure. Is secularism overwhelming Christianity? I think not.