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?

Bumper Stickers

I have always been fascinated by bumper stickers. They are sort of a pre-electronic Twitter – which I also find fascinating. Bumper stickers are more provocative because you don’t choose to “follow” them. They are in your face.

My wife often chides me when I squint through the windshield to read a sticker, or pause i the parking lot of a restaurant to study one of those cars with stickers plastered all over the back of it – a sort of self-inflicted graffiti.

While I am fascinated by them, bumper stickers offend my sense of propriety. My parents believed it undignified to “advertise” stuff with your car or clothing. My grandfather on my mother’s side would chisel-off the name plates of appliances he bought. “It’s not Frigidaire’s refrigerator, I paid for it, and I’m not going to advertise for them!”, he would say. My parents never had a bumper sticker on a car, nor did they have own any garments with more than a discreet logo. This aversion was passed on to me.

It was in the 1990’s when I put a bumper sticker on my old Honda sedan. I forget what the sticker said, but the capital “C” in “Clinton” was a hammer and sickle. I continue to go back and forth, putting them on, then taking them off. Right now I am sticker free – mostly because I don’t want my late-model vehicle to get key striped.

In the early days, bumper stickers were used to advertised some sort business from the low end of the tourism industry. Older residents will recall the green on yellow, “The THING? Mystery of the desert” sticker that seemed to be everywhere in southern Arizona. Decades ago, when the City of Tucson wanted to straighten River Road and make it an east-west highway, the residents along River Road campaigned strongly against the plan and sported bumper stickers that said, “Keep it Kinky.” This was the local bellwether to the shift from business to politics.

Politics now seem to dominate bumper sticker messages. Stands on every imaginable issue, from abortion to medicine to taxes, are thrust upon the unsuspecting driver. There is always an uptick in an election year, but the last cycle blossomed with a plethora of Obama promotional images and slogans – including the “O” logo which was the best, most adaptable logo since the Sumerians started poking clay with sticks.

Ologo

There are far more Democrats than Republicans in Pima County, so Obama stickers were everywhere. After the election, the stickers remained, even seemed to grow in number, or maybe I just find them more irritating. I have a friend who came to town for the Gem and Mineral Show last February, and was shocked to see Obama bumper stickers on Arizona cars. He, being from New Jersey, assumed all of Arizona was McCain country. I explained that Pima County was “Commie Central” in Arizona, and was actually carried by Obama.

Here it is, the dead of summer, and the virulent plague of “O” stickers still persist. I even saw a new mutation, “Yes We Did!”

Speaking of McCain, people on Obama’s presidential campaign admitted that McCain was their candidate of choice for the Republican nomination. They also admitted that they were scared witless by Romney. They were afraid that Romney would make Obama look clueless in the area of business and economics. Actually, you do not need a Mitt Romney to make president Obama look clueless regarding economics, but that is for another time. This insight does explain why McCain, held in generally low esteem by the Republican base, won the nomination. He was selected by Democrats and “Independents”. That’s why states have “open primaries”. Open primaries allow, in this case, Democrats to affect the outcome of Republican primaries.

I should probably save this for the next “Get Out of Town” issue, but I am really tired of Obama bumper stickers being worn like some kind of badge. It has always been considered poor taste for the winner to strut around rubbing everyone’s nose in his victory. Most parents teach their children this at an early age. My parents were no different. Remember, “Pride Goeth Before a Fall.”

On second thought, keep it up. The way things are going, those stickers may become a source of embarrassment. In fact, the Republicans may recycle the theme of an old 70’s Democrat sticker – “Don’t Blame Me, I voted for McCain.”

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.

Be a Part of History!

At the national level, the Republicans are wandering around shell-shocked in the wilderness, while the Democrats are lookin’ fly and rollin’ phat.

Many Republicans, who dare to look at the future, see a glimmer of hope in 2010. They know that, historically speaking, the mid-term elections usually result in electoral advances for the party that is out of power – if ever a party was out of power, it is certainly today’s Republican Party. Between 1946 and 1996, the president’s party suffered an average loss of about 24 seats in midterm elections, according to the book The American Congress, by Steven S. Smith, Jason M. Roberts, and Ryan J. Vander Wielen. The authors went on to state that the only time this does not happen is when the president’s approval rating is very high.

President Obama’s approval rating is still high, but so are the people’s expectations for his presidency. If, in two years, the economy has not recovered dramatically, unemployment is high, or the voters generally feel that their desires have not been fulfilled; they maybe inclined to make it a good year for Republicans. Two years is a long time in politics.

What the Republicans need are a few good candidates, and campaign organizations. Perhaps there will be some past successes from which they could glean ideas.

Let us now go back in time from 2010 to 2009 (that would be now), and narrow our focus from the nation to Tucson (that would be here). We may have here today a microcosm of the national scene in 2010.

While the big change on the national scene was the last election in which Democrat Barack Obama won the presidency, and Democrats strengthened their hold on Congress. The big change here occurred in 2005, when Democrats Nina Trasoff and Karin Uhlich succeeded Republicans Fred Ronstadt and Kathleen Dunbar. This put Tucson firmly under Democrat control. The newly elected Democrats were to transform Tucson into a happy, crime-free, traffic-jam free, neighborly city with a vibrant downtown in which one could not swing a cat without hitting some kind of artist. The big plank in the platform was the elimination of the trash fee, originally instituted by those nasty Republicans.

The reality, of course, turned out much differently. People are not moving around town on greenways and bicycles; rather, the City Council has approved plans by the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) to make roads bigger and better for *gasp* automobiles. The Rio Nuevo project, that was to “revitalize” downtown Tucson, has been so poorly managed that there is little to show for the ten years, and 60 to 100 million or so dollars, apparently spent on design concepts and artist’s renditions. I just checked my water bill and, and yep, the trash fee is still there. Then there is the goofy stuff like facilitating classes that teach kids how to spray graffiti. I could go on, but you get the idea.

So, Tucson really is the laboratory in which the Republicans can test ways to win against floundering Democrats. The old loser approaches should be abandoned. A focus on technology, particularly social networking, would help. More resources directed at grassroots efforts, with more autonomy at that level, would bring the campaigns into the 21st century. There is certainly enough disenchantment throughout the community that money should not be a problem.

The only major stumbling block is the party itself – they are, as of this writing, three months behind already! I asked Bob Westerman, chairman of the Pima County Republicans, if they were on it. He said that they were actively recruiting. I hope so. This is an opportunity that ought not be missed.

If you have been griping about how you find the current council embarrassing, if you are aggravated by what you see as an anti-business climate in this town, now is your chance to step up to the plate. Imagine, being on the cutting edge, beating the majority party, being the example to which the big boys look for ideas and guidance, making history….any takers?

Teaching Vandalism

It came to light, in a local daily, that the City of Tucson is funding a gaffiti class. That’s right, taxpayer money is being spent teaching children how to spray paint walls. In fact, Regina Romero earmarked $8,000.00 for the project.

Most of the City agencies involved have been scurrying to find excuses, most of them are some form of “Well, we heard of the project, but had not considered or approved it, and suddenly it just happened.”

Regina Romero was the only one in the article that was either gutsy, or stupid enough to defend the program. She apparently asked a bunch of kids what they wanted to do, they said they wanted to do graffiti, and here we are. She actually said, “Who are we as adults to judge what the youth are interested in. We’re reaching kids that wouldn’t otherwise take an art class.” The answer to her question is in the question itself – WE ARE THE ADULTS. Is it not a the role of the adults in our community to guide children regarding their intrests and behaviors?

If the children said that they wanted to deconstruct buildings with fire, instead of vandalize building walls, would Ms. Romero be saying, “Who are we as adults to judge what the youth are interested in?” Would she earmark $8,000.00 to set up structures in the TFD training facility that the children could learn to burn down in a creative and educational way? Would City officials say that the purpose was to provide a place for kids to burn buildings safely so they would not go out and do it illegally?

When I was in High School, some progressive parents would let their kids drink in their houses. They thought that it would be better for the kids to do it under supervision, than out on the street somehere. It did not take long before they realised that their tacit acceptance of under-aged drinking led to a dramatic increase in the activity, and we kids did not limit it to the relative safety of their homes. The vast majority of parents already knew supervised under-aged drinking for the disaster that it was, and the progressive types came to that understanding in short order.

Hopefully, Ms. Romero will learn what some of our parents learned the hard way. It will, of course, be harder on the children who are recieveing mixed messages from those in authority.


Don’t forget to read my latest article that ran in the Tucson Weekly, and Inside Track:
http://tucsonsammy.com/tucsons-modern-streetcar-project/

Tucson City Budget – a Place to Start

It is not news that City of Tucson revenues are way down. Sales taxes account for 42% of discretionary spending, and they have dropped off significantly, with no relief predicted in the near future.

In response, the City has cut back in the areas of hiring, training, and travel. It has also “slashed 10 percent of what it gives social services groups,” according to a local daily.

I have an idea. How about slashing 100 percent of what it gives to social service groups? It would be timely in light of the current budget problems, and no, I’m not suggesting that charities and non-profits not receive funding. I’m suggesting that they be funded directly by the people. Private donations are usually based on the institution’s performance. Government donations are based on politics. Besides, if you let the government make your donation decisions for you, the next thing you know, they’ll be choosing your light bulbs for you.

Seriously, is it not somewhat dehumanizing when the City infringes on the realm of giving? When you freely give your money to a worthy cause, your karma improves and your character is strengthened. When you give other people’s money to a worthy cause, you receive no such benefits.

If you think that people only do the right thing when forced to do so, then you will find free societies frustrating.

An Open Letter to Dennis Prager

Dear Mr. Prager,

I have a philosophical question that I would like you to consider. You are a deep thinker, and a Godly man, so you may have thoughts that will help resolve it. The question became clear to me after the election.

I think it is fair to say that the victory of President Elect Obama was achieved primarily through a two efforts. One was an ongoing effort of ginning up hatred for President Bush. Much of this effort involved rather despicable behavior on the part of Democrats, and most the people reveled in it. The other effort was to portray candidate Obama as a unifying moderate. He was, and is, just the opposite, and most people embraced the deception.

You, I, and others value civility, honesty, and honor. I believe, based on my observations, that generally the electorate does not share these values.

So the question is: Are we being arrogant when we insist on expressing, through word and deed, these values in political campaigns?

Here is an analogy. If the electorate were a customer, and a campaign were a product, would it not be arrogant to suggest that the customer should buy what we want, and not what he wants?

Here’s another one. Most adults see war as a horror, yet they understand that there are worse things, and are willing to engage in it when necessary. Many juveniles see war as a horror, but their understanding stops there. They conclude that all war is bad without further inquiry. This idea is reflected in slogans like “War is the enemy”, and “War is not healthy for children and other living things.” They refuse to live life on life’s terms. So, are we not being juvenile when we insist on maintaining a high level of decorum in political campaigns?

Spiritually speaking, have we lost our humility when we reject the values of those whom we endeavor to serve? I understand that our values come from a source higher than our egos, but in the role of public servants (emphasis on “servants”), should we not show respect for the electorate by embracing them as they are – on their terms?

It is my hope that even if you reject some of my premises, that you will address the question anyway, since it is an interesting philosophical/ethical problem.

Thank you.

Governor Napolitano is Back in the News

With the election of Barack Obama, Governor Napolitano finds herself propelled back to the national scene. Having endorsed the president elect early in the primary race, she is in the good graces of the new administration. She has already been welcomed into the transition team, can cabinet or other appointment be far off?

The question she needs to ask herself is not “do I feel lucky?”, I’m sure she does. The question is, “Arizona, or Washington?” Now, this is far more easy to answer than, “Mary Ann, or Ginger”. In fact, this could be her golden parachute.

Her tenure as governor has been kept alive by ongoing media support – from the Tucson dailies, to the Arizona Republic, and beyond. Some things, however, cannot be glossed over. The budget, for example, is a disaster waiting to explode. The state is still in deficit, and the problems have not been addressed directly. Money has been borrowed, swapped around, and otherwised used to stave off the inevitable. Revenues will not dramatically increase in the near future, so what will she do down the road?

Fortunately for the governor, this “Highway to Hell” has, for her, an exit to I-40 that leads to Washington, D.C. I suspect that she will take it. She has worked in Washington before as an Assistant Attorney General in the Clinton Department of Justice. Rahm Emanuel will be President Obama’s Chief of Staff. He too, served in the Clinton administration.

So, stay here and face the music, or jump to the “Big Show” in Washington? This is not much of a choice for a career politician.

Governor Napolitano’s Worldview

The Arizona Daily Star reports that Governor Napolitano wants any future economic “stimulus” payments to go to the state rather than the people. She said that it was a fact that government spending on “infrastructure” or “healthcare” had an immediate economic effect.

Governor, please, you must see how insulting those statements are to our intelligence. I am sure that you do not really believe that dumping money into the state coffers will have any effect on the economy – certainly not immediately. Wealth creation, jobs, better products and services, are all results of private sector activities. You know that, Governor….well, maybe you do not.

Earlier I talked about worldview. Perhaps the Governor has a worldview that differs from the rest of us. In her world, people make way too much money and spend it poorly. They move around needlessly in their cars, whenever they want, when they should be riding transit to work and home. They could be be allowed to keep enough money for food, shelter, and a bus pass (and maybe a little liquor money), and send the rest to the state where the Governor and her staff can spend it wisely, for the good of all. After all, what is the collective judgment of the proletariat compared to Gubernatorial Wisdom and Compassion? She will shower medical care, transportation, education, and public art upon you.

In our world, Lincoln freed the slaves. The owners pointed out that the slaves would just waste the money, were they allowed to keep it, and that they (the owners) knew how to spend it for the greater good of all the slaves. Still, Lincoln freed the slaves, and was a good thing… in our world, at least.

Prop 105 “Majority Rules”

Ballot prop 105, known as “Majority rules”, would require a majority of registered voters to vote in favor for passage, as opposed to a majority of votes cast. This standard would apply only to ballot propositions that raised taxes or fees. The idea is that new laws which reach into your wallet should meet a higher standard than others. It is similar in concept to existing law that requires a two thirds majority vote for the Arizona Legislature to raise taxes.

My first conversation concerning this ballot prop included two Democrat friends, one of whom dropped his jaw with a horrified expression when I said that I liked it. Both friends expressed the idea that any voting standard that deviated from a simple majority of votes cast was certainly an un-American, deviant, evil thing that would bring on plagues of locusts, frogs, et cetera.

I was somewhat taken aback by their visceral negative reaction. It took me a while, but I figured it out. It came down to worldview, our at least, how we see our country. My friends see the simple majority vote as foundational, not as a mere process or tool. To them, the country is great by virtue of the simple majority vote.

They are completely wrong. The foundational principle that makes the country great is individual sovereignty, or liberty/responsibility. Voting is a democratic process that picks, and disciplines, our representatives.

This dichotomy of worldviews accounts the hysteria of my friends. They see the prop as an attack on the foundation of our society, I see it as an appropriate tweaking of a process to adapt that process to a particular law-making instrument.

My friends are not just wrong, there is a dark side to their view. If individual sovereignty is not sacred, but anything done by majority vote is, then we have entered a world of tyranny where forty-nine per cent of the people will be oppressed.