No, not the Pope. The AZ Cardinals QB. Anyone with some high school experience might want to send in a resume.
Posts tagged ‘AZ’
The extent to which the media is aiding and abetting, with absolutely no skepticism, the sky-is-falling sequester reaction of pro-big-government forces is just sickening. I have never seen so many absurd numbers published so credulously by so much of the media. Reporters who are often completely unwilling to accept any complaints from corporations as valid when it comes to over-taxation or over-regulation are willing to print their sequester complaints without a whiff of challenge. Case in point, from here in AZ. This is a "news" article in our main Phoenix paper:
Arizona stands to lose nearly 49,200 jobs and as much as $4.9 billion in gross state product this year if deep automatic spending cuts go into effect Friday, and the bulk of the jobs and lost production would be carved from the defense industry.
Virtually all programs, training and building projects at the state’s military bases would be downgraded, weakening the armed forces’ defense capabilities, according to military spokesmen.
“It’s devastating and it’s outrageous and it’s shameful,” U.S. Sen. John McCain told about 200 people during a recent town-hall meeting in Phoenix.
“It’s disgraceful, and it’s going to happen. And it’s going to harm Arizona’s economy dramatically,” McCain said.
Estimates vary on the precise number of jobs at stake in Arizona, but there’s wide agreement that more than a year of political posturing on sequestration in Washington will leave deep economic ruts in Arizona.
Not a single person who is skeptical of these estimates is quoted in the entirety of the article. The entire incremental cut of the sequester in discretionary spending this year is, from page 11 of the most recent CBO report, about $35 billion (larger numbers you may have seen around 70-80 billion include dollars that were going away anyway, sequester or not, which just shows the corruption of this process and the reporting on it.)
Dividing this up based on GDP, about 1/18th of this cut would apply to Arizona, giving AZ a cut in Federal spending of around $2 billion. It takes a heroic multiplier to get from that to $4.9 billion in GDP loss. Its amazing to me that Republicans assume multipliers less than 1 for all government spending, except for defense (and sports stadiums) which magically take on multipliers of 2+.
Update: I wrote the following letter to the Editor today:
I was amazed that in Paul Giblin’s February 26 article on looming sequester cuts [“Arizona Defense Industry, Bases Would Bear Brunt Of Spending Cuts”], he was able to write 38 paragraphs and yet could not find space to hear from a single person exercising even a shred of skepticism about these doom and gloom forecasts.
The sequester rhetoric that Giblin credulously parrots is part of a game that has been played for decades, with government agencies and large corporations that supply them swearing that even trivial cuts will devastate the economy. They reinforce this sky-is-falling message by threatening to cut all the most, rather than least, visible and important tasks and programs in order to scare the public into reversing the cuts. The ugliness of this process is made worse by the hypocrisy of Republicans, who suddenly become hard core Keynesians when it comes to spending on military.
It is a corrupt, yet predictable, game, and it is disappointing to see the ArizonaRepublic playing along so eagerly.
Of late I have been seeing a lot of examples of people trying to claim that complex, even chaotic multi-variable systems are in fact driven by a single variable. Whether it be CO2 in climate or government spending in Keynesian views of the economy, this over-simplification seems to be a hubris that is increasingly popular.
The worst example I believe I have ever seen of this was in the editorial page today in the Arizona Republic. Titled Arizona vs. Massachusetts, this article purports to blame everything from Arizona's higher number of drunk driving accidents to its higher number of rapes on ... the fact that Arizona has lower taxes. I kid you not:
In the absence of discernible benefits, higher taxes are indeed a negative. We would all like to keep more of what we earn. That is, if there are not other negative consequences. So, it is reasonable to ask: What do Massachusetts citizens get for these increased public expenditures? A wide range of measures from widely disparate sources provide insight into the hidden costs of a single-minded obsession with lower taxes at all costs.
The results of such an investigation are revealing: Overall, Massachusetts residents earn significantly higher salaries and are less likely to be unemployed than those who live in Arizona. Their homes are less likely to be foreclosed on. Their residents are healthier and are better educated, have a lower risk of being murdered, getting killed in a car accident or getting shot by a firearm than are Arizonans. Perhaps these factors explain the lower suicide rate in Massachusetts than in Arizona as well as the longer life spans.
None of this supposed causation is based on the smallest scrap of evidence, other than the spurious correlation that Arizona has lower taxes at the same time it has more of the bad things the authors don't like. The authors do not even attempt to explain why, out of the thousands of variables that might have an impact on these disparities, that taxation levels are the key driver, or are even relevant.
Perhaps most importantly, the authors somehow fail to even mention the word demographics. Now, readers know that I am not very happy with Arizona Conservatives that lament the loss here of the Anglo-Saxon mono-culture. I think immigration is healthy, and find some of the unique cultures in the state, such as on the large tribal reservations, to make the state more interesting.
However, it is undeniable that these demographic differences create wildly different cultures between Arizona and Massachusetts, and that these differences have an enormous impact on the outcomes the authors describe. For example, given the large number of new immigrants in this state, many of whom come here poor and unable to speak English, one would expect our state to lag in economic averages and education outcomes when compared to a state populated by daughters of the revolution and the kids of college professors (see immigration data at end of post). This is made worse by the fact that idiotic US immigration law forces many of these immigrants underground, as it is far harder to earn a good income, get an education, or have access to health care when one does not have legal status. (This is indeed one area AZ is demonstrably worse than MA, with our Joe-Arpaio-type fixation on harassing illegal immigrants).
By the way, it turns out Arizona actually does pretty well with Hispanic students vs. Massachusetts -- our high school graduation rate for Hispanics is actually 10 points higher than in MA (our graduation rate for blacks is higher too). But since both numbers are so far below white students, the heavy mix of Hispanic students brings down Arizona's total average vs. MA. If you don't understand this issue of how one state can do better than another on many demographic categories but still do worse on average because of a more difficult demographic mix, then you shouldn't be writing on this topic.
Further, the large swaths of this state that are part of various Indian nations complicate the picture. AZ has by far the largest area under the management of tribal nations in the country -- in fact, almost half the tribal land in the country is in this one state. These tribal areas typically add a lot of poverty, poor education outcomes, and health issues to the Arizona numbers. Further, they are plagued with a number of tragic social problems, including alcoholism (with resulting high levels of traffic fatalities) and suicide. But its unclear how much these are a result of Arizona state policy. These tribal governments are their own nations with their own laws and social welfare systems, and in general fall under the purview of Federal rather than state authority. The very real issues faced by their populations have a lot of historical causes that have exactly nothing to do with current AZ state tax policy.
The article engages in a popular sort of pseudo-science. It drops in a lot of numbers, leaving the impression that the authors have done careful research. In fact, I count over 50 numbers in the short piece. The point is to dazzle the typical cognitively-challenged reader into thinking the piece is very scientific, so that its conclusions must be accepted. But when one shakes off the awe over the statistical density, one realizes that not one of the numbers are relevant to their hypothesis: that the way Arizona runs its government is the driver of these outcome differences.
It's really not even worth going through the rest of this article in detail. You know the authors are not even trying to be fair when they introduce things like foreclosure rates, which have about zero correlation with taxes or red/blue state models. I lament all the negative statistics the authors cite, but it is simply insane to somehow equate these differences with the size and intrusiveness of the state. Certainly I aspire to more intelligent government out of my state, which at times is plagued by yahoos focusing on silly social conservative bugaboos. I am open to learning from the laboratory of 50 states we have, and hope, for example, that Arizona will start addressing its incarceration problem by decriminalizing drugs as has begun in other states.
The authors did convince me of one thing -- our state university system cannot be very good if it hires professors with this sort of analytical sloppiness. Which is why I am glad I sent my son to college in Massachusetts.
PS- If the authors really wanted an apples to apples comparison that at least tried to find states somewhat more demographically similar to Arizona, they could have tried comparing AZ to California and Texas. I would love for them to explain how well the blue state tax heavy model is working in CA. After all, they tax even more than MA, so things must be even better there, right? I do think that other states like Texas are better at implementing aspects of the red-state model and do better with education for example. You won't get any argument from me that the public schools here are not great (though I work with several Charter schools which are fabulous). For some reason, people in AZ, including upper middle class white families, are less passionate on average about education than folks in other states I have lived. I am not sure why, but this cultural element is not necessarily fixable by higher taxes.
Update- MA supporters will argue, correctly, that they get a lot of immigration as well. In fact, numerically, they get about the same number of immigrants as AZ. But the nature of this immigration is totally different. MA gets legal immigrants who are highly educated and who come over on corporate or university-sponsored visa programs. Arizona gets a large number of illegal immigrants who get across the border with a suitcase and no English skills. The per-person median household income for MA immigrants in 2010 was $16,682 (source). The per-person median household income for AZ immigrants was $9,716. 35.3% of AZ immigrants did not finish high school, while only 15.4% of MA immigrants have less than a high school degree. 48% of AZ immigrants are estimated to be illegal, while only 19% of those in MA are illegal. 11% of Arizonans self-report that they speak English not at all, vs. just 6.7% for MA (source).
I don't know if its the distance from the Mainland or something about its history, but Hawaii often appears to be among the worst states for regulatory capture by local businesses. This example was brought to me by a co-worker, who lives in AZ but wants to buy a condo in Hawaii. They want the condo for their own use, but also hope to rent it out. This kind of model is more appealing nowadays given the ease (and low cost) with which one can advertise rentals on various Internet sites.
But not so fast, not in Hawaii. In legislation that reminds be of stuff from the 1990's when businesses tried to fight Internet-driven disintermediation, Hawaii is proposing to force non-Hawaiians to use a local broker to list their rental properties. Apparently local residents can still list their properties on low-cost Internet sites, but folks on the mainland (also known as "the United States") must use a high-cost locally licensed broker, who typically charge 50% of rental fees as a commission. These type of commission rates are farcical - they imply that fully half the value of a one-week condominium stay is due to the broker, not the condo itself, its location, etc. The only way brokers can charge these fees is by maintaining a tight cartel enforced by government licensing laws.
Any reasonable person will look at this law and immediately know it is about crony protection of local real estate brokers. Of course, that is not what the law says. It is all about "consumer protection"
The legislature also finds that requiring nonresident owners to employ a licensed professional such as a real estate broker or salesperson or a condominium hotel operator is an important consumer protection measure. Consumers who use real estate companies, real estate brokers, real estate salespersons, or condominium hotel operators for their transient accommodation rental needs can do so with the knowledge that all money generated will flow through a client trust account, the appropriate federal tax form 990s will be generated, and accurate transient accommodations taxes and general excise taxes will be paid. Real estate companies, real estate brokers, real estate salespersons, and condominium hotel operators must comply with specific licensing and bonding requirements, thus offering additional protections for consumers.
So consumer protection is defined as making sure taxes get paid and the government forms get filled out. Because God knows my entire vacation would be ruined if Federal tax form 990 was not filled out properly.
This is total BS, and Milton Friedman called it years ago when he wrote on licensing:
The justification offered is always the same: to protect the consumer. However, the reason is demonstrated by observing who lobbies at the state legislature for the imposition or strengthening of licensure. The lobbyists are invariably representatives of the occupation in question rather than of the customers. True enough, plumbers presumably know better than anyone else what their customers need to be protected against. However, it is hard to regard altruistic concern for their customers as the primary motive behind their determined efforts to get legal power to decide who may be a plumber.
This is also a great example of voters agreeing to add costs on everyone but themselves. If the almost inevitable Constitutional concerns with this law forced in-state and out-of-state condo owners to be treated equally, local owners would immediately push back, hard, against the costs this law would impose. Only by structuring this law to apply to those annoying out-of-staters could it ever be passed.
I have been considering taking advantage of low prices in Hawaii to buy a condo, but I may rethink that plan given this pending legislation.
A Flagstaff police officer who used his baton, boot and a cable to kill an injured dog after a fellow officer accidentally hit the animal with his car in August will not face criminal charges, according to the Navajo County Attorney’s Office.
Tewes was called after another officer hit a loose dog with his car Aug. 19. Tewes and the other officer decided the dog needed to be euthanized, but Tewes was concerned about using his gun in the neighborhood.
According to a Coconino County sheriff’s investigative report, Tewes repeatedly tried to bludgeon the dog to death, but it didn’t die. He then tried to jump on the dog’s head and cave in its skull, but that also didn’t kill the animal. Eventually, after some 20 to 30 minutes of trying to kill the dog, he used a hobble, which is like a metal cable, to try to strangle the dog. It took several tries before the dog died.
We give police officers unique and dangerous powers and authority. It is amazing the poor judgement of the people we so entrust.
I saw this at Flowing Data -- this is apparently a chart prepared by some sustainability group at MIT to map solar potential of different sites in Cambridge, MA
Look at all the sites marked "excellent". I have news for the brilliant folks at MIT. Even the best, flattest roof facing south in Cambridge, MA still rates a "sucks" for solar potential. (source)
Even with massive state and Federal subsidies, those of us who live in the bright red areas find that roof-top solar PV is still an - at best - marginal investment with very long payback times. We all hope to change this in the future, but there is no way a city like Cambridge with approximately half the solar insolation we get in AZ is going to have "excellent" roof top solar PV sites.
In 2011, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, Arizona's Medicaid program, paid for 53 percent of the state's 84,979 births, while private insurance paid for 42 percent, according to state statistics. The remainder were paid for by individuals....
Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, estimated that including pre- and postnatal care, it costs Arizona about $7,500 per birth for a delivery with no complications. Using those estimates, the 2011 deliveries would have cost Arizona taxpayers nearly $338 million....
In 2010, 58 percent [of Arizonans] had private insurance and 18 percent were on Medicaid.
So, 18% of Arizonans are having 53% of all births. Another way to put this is that the 18% of people who get this procedure from the government for free account for half the demand, despite the fact that these folks are the ones who, if rational, should be the least likely to have a lot of births because they presumably have the most difficulty affording an extra mouth to feed.
God forbid I start sounding like some crotchity Conservative, but I continue to be amazed that pregnancy is treated as an "emergency procedure." It strikes me that unlike, say, cancer, individuals can choose to avoid this condition fairly easily if they can't afford it. I certainly know my wife and I put FAR more deliberation into having children than we did any other decision in our lives. There is a terrible tension here - no one wants to turn away an expectant mother and endanger her child, but freely giving away an expensive procedure without any sort of restrictions nearly begs for a baby boom. Those who try to argue that Obamacare won't increase health care expenses (in other words, arguing that demand curves don't upward) only have to look at these numbers.
PS- Apparently, our state legislature is appalled by these numbers. This is the same legislature that has proposed about a zillion abortion restrictions over the last year. It will be interesting to see if fiscal issues change anyone's thinking on the abortion issue now that there is suddenly a $7500+ incentive to allow an abortion.
Update -- Thinking about this, I think the 18%/53% comparison is directionally correct but the difference is exaggerated due to Medicare. I doubt Medicare delivers many babies, but a large part of the AZ population is on Medicare. If the numbers were reset to show the percentage of Arizonans of child-rearing age on Medicaid, the number would be north of 18% but likely well below 53%.
It is never dull here in AZ. It appears that Michael Marin, upon being convicted of arson in court yesterday, may have committed suicide right there in court.
"Burning Man" Michael Marin reportedly died after his "medical emergency" in the courtroom yesterday, which came after a jury handed down a guilty verdict in Marin's arson case.
Fox 10 had its camera on Marin's face as the verdict came in, and it sure looks like he put something in his mouth before he started having an apparent seizure and fell unconscious in the courtroom.
Video at the link if you are morbidly inclined.
I just read JD Tuccille's High Desert Barbeque, also about arson in AZ as it turns out, and enjoyed it thoroughly. But authors like Tuccille who are writing satire have to work hard to stay more outrageous than the news here in AZ. Seriously, a guy starts a fire in his own house, escapes from the second floor in a scuba mask and tanks, and then crunches a cyanide tablet in court as the verdict is read? Come on, who is writing this stuff?
PS- I may be missing the legal definition on this, but Marin was convicted of arson on an occupied structure when he was the only occupant. I find it odd that the arsonist himself "counts" as an occupant towards this charge which, I presume, carries worse penalties than arson on an unoccupied structure. Upping the charge this way reminds me of the NYC police asking people on the street to show them their weed and then busting them on the charge of public display of said weed.
Valley Metro is set to break ground today on the first light-rail expansion, a 3.1-mile stretch into downtown Mesa that city leaders hope will bring a sorely needed economic boost.
The $200 million extension is expected to attract thousands more East Valley riders daily and potentially nurture new development along the line.
If we assume "thousands" means two thousand, then this means the metro area is spending $100,000 per new daily rider for this expansion, not including the additional operating subsidies that will be required to run the trains. Given that none of these people will likely be able to give up their car, since the route goes so few places, why should they get a $100,000 subsidy?
How about we charge them what it costs? The payment on a 30-year 5% bond is around $13,000,000 a year. So if there are 2,000 additional round trip riders boarding or debarking at these new stations each day, that is 1.46 million trips. So the tickets should be $8.90 per trip plus the cost of actually running the train. We'll round it to $10, though the cost is probably higher. If people really think this train is so great, they should be more than willing to pay the $10 a trip it costs for the expansion.
No, they are not? What this means is that people think this is a really go idea as long as someone else pays.
PS- If these seem unreasonably high, or simply an artifact of looking at this expansion on a stand-alone basis, think again. For the original system, the capital cost was $75,000 per round trip rider and the public subsidy in 2010 was $32.73 per trip. In other words, on the main system, riders would have to pay $32.73 a trip more to be actually covering the cost of the service they are receiving. So if anything, these incremental numbers for the expansion are probably optimistic.
PPS - I am sure transit authorities would argue that the public did support paying for other people's transit by approving the sales tax increase for this purpose a few years ago. But the train piece was packaged in with a bunch of highway improvements in the same proposition that people really did want. It would never have passed on its own. Transit official may disagree, but the proof is in their actions - they have never allowed the public to vote on the transit piece alone.
I almost hate beating on the silly folks who run the City of Glendale even further, but they keep screwing up.
One of the reasons I think that city officials like those in Glendale like to dabble in real estate and sports stadiums is what I call the "bigshot effect." They don't have any capital of their own, and they don't have the skills such that anyone else would (voluntarily) trust them to invest other people's money, but with a poll of tax money they get to play Donald Trump and act like they are big wheels. The Glendale city council did this for years, and when their incompetence inevitably led to things starting to fall apart, they have simply thrown more money at it to try to protect their personal prestige.
But unfortunately, incompetence generally is an infinite reservoir, and apparently the City has screwed up again. Years ago, when the City promised the rich people who owned the AZ Cardinals a new half billion dollar stadium, they put a contract to that effect on paper. Granted, this was a sorry giveaway, spending hundreds of millions of dollars for a stadium that would be used by the Cardinals for 30 hours a year, by the Fiesta Bowl for 3 hours a year, and by the NFL for a Superbowl for 3 hours every 6-7 years. But, never-the-less, the City made a contractual agreement.
And then, in its rush to be real estate bigshots, the city turned about 3700 parking spaces promised contractually to the Cardinals over to a developer to create an outlet mall (of the sort that has been quietly going bankrupt all over the country over the last few years). Incredibly, the city did this without any plan for how to replace the parking it owed the Cardinals. To this day, it has no plan.
Apparently, there were also some shenanigans with $25 million that had been escrowed to build a parking garage.
The demand letter also blames the parking problem on the city's dealings with Steve Ellman, Westgate's former developer and a one-time co-owner of the Phoenix Coyotes. The letter states that Ellman's relationship with the city has been "characterized by a lack of transparency."
The letter raises questions about a January 2011 arrangement in which the city and Ellman equally split a $25million escrow fund that had been earmarked to build a parking garage in Westgate, the team said.
Ellman put that money in escrow in 2008 after failing to keep a promise to the city to provide a set amount of permanent parking in Westgate.
By early 2011, half of that money went back to Ellman's lenders as part of a deal to try to keep the Coyotes in Glendale, while the city received the other $12.5 million in the account.
What a mess. This is what happens when politicians try to be bigshots with our money.
For years now I have lampooned the crazy money Glendale, AZ has thrown at the Phoenix ice hockey team in a desperate attempt to trade taxpayer money for prestige. Let me bring you up to date:
Years ago a town of about 250,000 people committed about $200 million in taxpayer money to build a stadium for a professional ice hockey team, to attract it away from Scottsdale or downtown Phoenix to what is frankly the ass-end of the metropolitan area (I have no problems with the west side of town, but from a geographic, demographic, and economic logic standpoint this was roughly equivalent to moving the LA Lakers to Riverside or San Bernardino).
For some weird reason, moving an ice hockey team to the desert with no base of hockey fans and locating it a good 45 minutes from the wealthier parts of town caused the team to go bankrupt. Lots of people were willing to pay good money to haul the team back to Canada where there are, you know, ice hockey fans, but few wanted to pay good money to keep it on the west side of Phoenix.
So enter the NHL, which took the team over. The NHL commissioner promised the other owners that it would not lose money on the deal, so it set the price of the team not at the market price (which appears to be around $100 million based on the Atlanta sale) but based on its costs, which were about $200 million. It has agreed to try to keep the team in Glendale, but only if the city covers its operating losses of $25 million each year, which incredibly, the city has done for two years (note this is $100 a year for every man, woman, and child in the city to subsidize a hockey team).
The team may be worth $200 million in Canada, but it is only worth $100 million in Glendale (at most) so it does not sell. The city agreed to make up the $100 million difference with a bond issue (and throw another $90+ million in to boot), which almost closed the deal with one buyer until the Goldwater Institute pointed out that this kind of subsidy was illegal under the AZ constitution. And so the situation sits. The asking price is still $200 million, which no one will pay if they have to keep the team in Glendale. And the city keeps forking over $25 million a year to the NHL to keep the team running.
OK, so that is the background. Here is the new news.
The league, which purchased the Phoenix Coyotes at a bankruptcy court auction in 2009, has been managing the team and city-owned arena until an owner willing to keep the team in Glendale can be found. The city paid $25 million to the NHL during the 2010-11 season and pledged another $25 million for the current season, which is expected to come due in May.
To fulfill that pledge, the city put $20 million in escrow and still needs to come up with $5 million.
The hefty payouts have nearly drained the city's reserves, leading to a recent drop in the city's bond rating.
And the city is looking at a deficit next fiscal year that one councilwoman has estimated could reach $30 million. A possible sales-tax hike, furloughs and program cuts are on the table to close the spending gap....
During Tuesday's budget talks, [Glendale Mayor] Scruggs asked council members to join her in signing a letter to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to "release us from that $20 million in escrow and let us pay over time."
None of the councilmembers responded to her request. Councilman Manny Martinez later told The Republic he would "have to think about it in light of what is going on."
Scruggs said if the city can get back the $20 million from escrow and pay the NHL an initial $5 million, "our problems and everything our employees are fearful of would pretty much go away."
Translation: Dear NHL, we are idiots and committed a bunch of money to a stupid purpose that we can't really afford. Would you pretty please let us out of our commitment? Hilarious and pathetic. The chickens are coming home to roost by the millions.
Even funnier, the Glendale mayor is trying to blame the NHL for bad faith
The mayor said she and four others councilmembers pledged the second payout last May because city staff and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said a deal with a team owner was nearly complete and that "we should never have to pay that $25 million."
Scruggs said the city was told the money was just a place holder so that the NHL wouldn't move the team out of Glendale.
"Given the stress that our budget is under, there should be a payment plan developed," Scruggs said. "They have no right to that money. They held us hostage for a year."
She said the NHL never intended to do business with Chicago businessman Matt Hulsizer, who wanted to buy the team but walked away from the negotiation table in frustration just weeks after the council pledged the second payment to the NHL....
Scruggs said the NHL last spring "misled us and they can't do this to our city."
In fact, the NHL was totally serious about the Hulsizer deal. That deal fell through not because the NHL screwed up, but because Glendale did. The deal fell through because Glendale had committed to a subsidy of the deal which may not have been Constitutional, and even if it had proved legal, became impossible when Glendale's bond ratings started tanking and they realized they could not move the paper. Glendale officials have been amateurish and dishonest through this entire process.
By the way, several years ago, Jim Balsillie offered a deal worth over $200 million for the team, PLUS he offered to pay off something like $150 million of Glendale's stadium debt. Glendale opposed the deal, because they would have been left with an empty stadium and tens of millions in debt (given the crash in RIM's fortunes, the offer is unlikely to be renewed).
Glendale is likely going to wish they had taken the first offer. There is a very good chance that Glendale will lose the team without any sort of payment on their debt and after paying $25 million a year to the NHL. Glendale will end up with hundreds of millions in debt, an empty stadium, a junk-level bond rating and a busted budget.
There is a saying in the investment world - your first loss is your best loss. Glendale is about to learn this very expensive lesson.
As I mentioned the other day, I sometimes have this fantasy that we have some sort of libertarian streak in the Arizona Republican party. The Goldwater Institute and Jeff Flake give me hope. But then the Arizona legislature gets to work and my hopes are dashed.
A big national Republican issue is the excessive power Congress has delegated to the EPA and FDA to regulate and ban substances, from BPA to CO2. So what do the Republicans do in AZ? They propose a law to give an un-elected bureaucracy the power to willy nilly ban substances without a bit of legislative oversight.
The legislature had previously outlawed 30 chemicals that could be used to make the "bath salts"-type mixtures, and dropped another eight substances on the bill Governor Jan Brewer signed last month.
As Boca Raton Florida-based attorney Thomas Wright III told New Times shortly before Brewer signed the legislation, "To suggest they're putting a ban on bath salts is dumbing down the general public."
Republican state Senator Linda Gray is now explaining this to everyone, as she's proposed a new method to attempt banning "bath salts."
House Bill 2388 is the new hope, which would allow the state's Board of Pharmacy and the Department of Public Safety to ban the sales of chemical substances at their pleasure.
According to a Senate fact sheet, the pharmacy board "must make a formal finding that the chemical composition defined by the Board has a potential for abuse and submit the finding to DPS."
The pharmacy board then has to "consult" with DPS about its proposed rule, and that's that. The board just has to let the governor and the legislature know once a year which chemicals it's decided to ban.
So after all the concern about regulation voiced by Republicans about the EPA, they are giving even more sweeping powers to... the Board of Pharmacy and the Department of Public Safety? This should be all the proof you need that the Coke and Pepsi party have equivalent authoritarian streaks. As many other libertarians have observed, the Republicans have a healthy distrust of government, except when it comes to anyone such as the DPS or military that carries a gun, and then they are willing to hand over infinite trust and authority.
In many ways, this law is exactly like the environmental laws Republicans hate that require detailed analyses of potential harms but no counterveiling analysis of benefits. In this case, the Pharmacy board is required to analyze the potential for abuse of chemicals but there is absolutely no language requiring any consideration of the benefits of the substance's use or legality. By the language of the law, if there is a potential for abuse, it must be banned no matter how otherwise useful the product is or could be.
Ken over at Popehat had a great article about a proposed cyber-bullying law in Connecticut. While he later reports the bill may have died in committee, it is still instructive to look at it, as its twin may well get passed in AZ and many other states are proposing such laws faster than the little animals pop up in a whack-a-mole game.
I am becoming increasingly convinced that these are all stealth attempts to protect politicians and public officials from criticism. Look at the proposed law in CT:
(a) A person commits electronic harassment when such person, with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person, transmits, posts, displays or disseminates, by or through an electronic communication device, radio, computer, Internet web site or similar means, to any person, a communication, image or information, which is based on the actual or perceived traits or characteristics of that person, which:
(1) Places that person in reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or property;
(2) Has a substantial and detrimental effect on that person's physical or mental health;
(3) Has the effect of substantially interfering with that person's academic performance, employment or other community activities or
(4) Has the effect of substantially interfering with that person's ability to participate in or benefit from any academic, professional or community-based services, activities or privileges; or
(5) Has the effect of causing substantial embarrassment or humiliation to that person within an academic or professional community.
One of the tricks of these laws is to mix and thereby conflate outrageous behavior most all of us are willing to restrict (e.g. make a credible threat to someone's life) with everyday behaviors such as annoying people.
Let's say I were to write in my blog that, say, Joe Arpaio is an jerk and should not get re-elected. Let's analyze the statement
- It's transmitted electronically
- It will very likely annoy Arpaio, since he is known to be annoyed by all criticism
- I am trying very hard to interfere with his employment by preventing his re-election
By this law, therefore, even this relatively mild criticism is illegal. In fact, since all criticisms of politicians can be said to negatively affect their re-election chances, by part 3 any political criticism online would be illegal.
I honestly don't think this is a bug, it is a feature. Already police departments and other public officials are using cyber-bullying laws to stomp on those who criticize them.
Women have wrinkles, pores and curves. And there's a movement across the world to make sure advertisers can no longer pretend otherwise.
Now, that movement has come to Arizona.
House Bill 2793, proposed by Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, would require advertisers who alter or enhance a photo to put a disclaimer on that ad alerting customers that "Postproduction techniques were made to alter the appearance in this advertisement. When using this product, similar results may not be achieved."
Really? You mean my wife isn't going to suddenly look like Demi Moore if she uses Dove soap? Next you are going to tell me that drinking Miller Lite does not cause me to suddenly be surrounded by hot women.
Update: Apprarently this is about empowering women by treating them like moronic rubes
"As an organization, we are all about empowering women and eliminating discrimination," Richard said. "We want to make sure that young women get a better start and better self-image."
He said girls need to understand that these photos aren't all real. Someone has airbrushed out the model's wrinkles and pores, or put a woman's head on top of a computer-generated perfect body.
"You need to disclose that so our young women don't grow up thinking a poreless face is possible," he said. "That's not the way that I think anyone wants to raise their daughters."
I sat through a series of sessions held with legislators today in Utah, and I must say I was pretty impressed with the fiscal sanity that has ruled this state through the last 10 years, and saw it successfully through the recent downturn. When tax revenues were up last decade, they were doing crazy, nutty things like actually building up their rainy day fund. And they are already talking this year about contributing to rather than withdrawing from this fund. They still do silly politician-stuff (the law to name a state gun comes to mind) but overall a good session, facilitated by a terrific, scrappy group called the Utah Taxpayers Association. These guys had the governor, the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, and numerous legislators participating. I am not sure our larger and much better funded Goldwater Institute in AZ could do as well.
As an added bonus, I found myself sitting with a talking to Billy Casper, two-time winner of the US Open and Master Champion. Turns out Mr. Casper is in roughly the same business I am, lending his name and time to a large firm that privately manages public golf courses.
Bonus Utah Observation: You would expect a state with a large LDS influence to have oddities in its alcohol laws, but other than state-run liquor stores (which can be found in a number of other states, alas) I observed nothing too odd. What I had not thought about was coffee. There are very few Starbucks here, due in large part to LDS prohibitions on caffeine. I know a lot of software firms moved here -- I wonder how they even function without large supplies of Mountain Dew Code Red?
Oh, and I know you don't think BBQ in Utah, but Pat's is freaking awesome. My competitor who is based on the area was nice enough to buy me lunch. And just in time, as about an hour later it was announced I had just won a large contract from him.
No, that headline is correct -- some crazed hacker has not taken over Coyote Blog. Having been relentlessly critical of government organizations in general and the DMV in particular, I think fairness demands I post exculpatory evidence when I have it.
This morning we thought my son lost his driver's license (later found). Dreading the all day trip to the DMV to get it replaced (and no, nothing has changed my opinion that that experience sucks), we checked online for the procedure. It turns out that we could have applied for a new license over the Internet, and, best of all, if we got the application in by 3:00 today we could have had the license in our hands by noon tomorrow, on a Saturday no less, via express delivery. That's better than my credit card company does.
Yes, such service is a virtual necessity given how central the government has made the driver's license in so many routine activities (except voting of course, that would be racist!). But it is still a breath of fresh air to see any state institution match their service to such necessities. Now, if we could only get the passport process sorted out, but that one is just getting worse.
The AZ Republic, which still prints a couple of unsigned editorials in the paper every day, has decided that it does not like having anonymous comments. Their solution is to have all commenters use their Facebook id. Because it is so much harder to create a fake Facebook persona than it is to put a fake name on your comment.
Postscript- Apparently "anonymous gutter talk" triggered the change. The decision to tie into Facebook was a natural, I guess, because everyone knows the level of discourse is so high there.
From the famous Onion 9/11 issue, this seems amazingly precient considering Senator McCain's proposed law to allow the President to indefinitely detain just about anyone he thinks might be a terrorist
U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), one of Congress' decorated war veterans, tried to steel the nation for the possibility of a long and confusing conflict.
"America faces a long road ahead," McCain said. "We do not yet know the nature of 21st-century warfare. We do not yet know how to fight this sort of fight. And I'll be damned if one of us has an inkling who we will be fighting against. With any luck, they've got uniforms of some sort."
"Christ," McCain continued, "what if the terrorists' base of operation turns out to be Detroit? Would we declare war on the state of Michigan? I suppose we'd have to."
Michigan was an interesting choice -- I wonder if they knew at the time the prominence of Muslims in Michigan or if it was just a random choice? Certainly, though, they had McCain nailed.
I mentioned earlier that maybe somewhat different rules of due process were required when the enemy is not wearing, you know, uniforms. Again, the Onion was first, from the same article
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the war against terrorism will be different from any previous model of modern warfare.
"We were lucky enough at Pearl Harbor to be the victim of a craven sneak attack from an aggressor with the decency to attack military targets, use their own damn planes, and clearly mark those planes with their national insignia so that we knew who they were," Rumsfeld said. "Since the 21st-century breed of coward is not affording us any such luxury, we are forced to fritter away time searching hither and yon for him in the manner of a global easter-egg hunt."
OK, so the Eastern narrative on Arizona is that it is full of a bunch of wacked-out xenophobic conservatives. And sure, we have our share. But the NY Times delves into an issue that, living here, I had never even heard of
The massive dust storms that swept through central Arizona this month have stirred up not just clouds of sand but a debate over what to call them.
The blinding waves of brown particles, the most recent of which hit Phoenix on Monday, are caused by thunderstorms that emit gusts of wind, roiling the desert landscape. Use of the term “haboob,” which is what such storms have long been called in the Middle East, has rubbed some Arizona residents the wrong way.
“I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob,” Don Yonts, a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., wrote to The Arizona Republic after a particularly fierce, mile-high dust storm swept through the state on July 5. “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?”
Presumably Yonts also uses some numeric system other than arabic numerals for his math as well. Seriously, I could mine any community and find some wacko with some crazy idea. Good journalists are supposed to have some kind of filter on these things to determine if they really are some pressing regional issue. I live here and I have not heard one word about any such controversy. But it fits the NY Times caricature of AZ, so they ran with it.
In fact, I think "haboob" has caught on pretty fast because it is a fun sounding name and it is something that is unique to AZ vs. other states. After living on the Gulf Coast and in tornado alley and on the west coast, it is kind of nice to live in a place where the worst natural disaster you get is a dust tsunami that makes you have to go out and wash your car.
We get dust storms from time to time here (though not as often as, say, in Eastern Washington, at least from the short experience I had there). Last night we had a big one, and as usual every surface is covered in dirt. While it was going on, it looked like a London fog, but with dirt instead of water.
What made this one different for me is that I got to see it roll in from the south. It was an amazing sight. It looked like a scene from Steven King's the Mist, or perhaps from the bottom of a volcano slope watching a pyroclastic flow coming at you. It reminded me of standing in the streets of Manhattan on 9/11 and watching the cloud of debris coming at us after the first tower fell. Here is a picture from the AZ Republic of the storm rolling in from the south like a giant tsunami.
Here is a video of it rolling in, which is really cool, if you can ignore the end-is-near typical style of local reporting that has to blow up every odd event into a catastrophe demanding that one tune in at eleven.
I have argued many times that publicly-funded stadiums are a huge part of sports profits and team valuations. For example, here in Glendale AZ, the town's stadium subsidies represent over a third of the value of the Cardinals and almost 200% of the value of the Coyotes.
As some of you may know, the NBA is heading into a protracted labor negotiation, with both parties acknowledging that the economics of the game have turned against owners. Henry Abbot at ESPN argues that a large part of that economic change has been increasing taxpayer reluctance to subsidize sweetheart stadium deals for teams
Public money for stadiums has become scarce, and I have to believe that's part of the owners' pleas for financial relief from players. Huge moneymaking buildings for free or cheap have been no small part of what makes owning a team a no-brainer. Now teams in need of stadiums -- like the Kings and whatever team may one day relocate to Seattle -- face tough economics. Getting either deal done requires some kind of miracle. And in that context, if you ever fantasized about a world where taxpayers didn't contribute so much to buildings -- even if it meant players earned a little less -- well, your time is now.
To his latter point, I hope he is right.
I have been following the story on this blog of how Glendale, Arizona has been throwing wads of taxpayer money at the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team and at any rich person who might be willing to buy the team. The city of 225,000 citizens spent nearly $200 million on a stadium, promised to hand a buyer of the team $100 million to help with the purchase, plus hand the new buyer a stadium contract worth about $100 million over five years. While this all plays out, Glendale paid the NHL $25 million last year to help cover the team's losses and has agreed to pay another $25 million this year.
Wow. This is just amazing, written all in one place. But its not just hockey that the small corporate-state suburb on Phoenix wants to subsidize. Here is the latest recipient of largess:
Bechtel Corp., one of Glendale's largest employers, has agreed to stay until 2018 after city officials offered the company about $1 million in incentives.
By next year, the global engineering and construction company, with the city's financial help, will move from north Glendale to a new, vacant building not far from the city's sports district called the Glendale Corporate Center....
Under the agreement, Glendale would give $576,000 over the next two years to Bechtel for its costs to outfit the building shell for offices.
The incentive package also includes a waiver of $50,000 in city permit fees and a job-retention incentive of $1,250 per employee, up to $400,000. Each eligible employee must earn a salary of at least $50,000 per year.
Glendale offered a sports perk as well.
Bechtel can use the city's suites, both at Camelback Ranch Glendale and Jobing.com Arena, for free twice.
LOL, Jobing.com arena is the hockey rink the city built, so it is giving tickets from its subsidized hockey club to its subsidized engineering firm. The article includes the usual consultant figures who reliably take money from cities to report on all the indirect benefits and revenues and economic activity that result from their subsidies.
However, these are not the first subsidies paid to Bechtel by Glendale
The corporation first came to Glendale in 2002. Bechtel moved to Talavi Corporate Center from Phoenix after Glendale promised $1 million in incentives. The staff at the time was expected to grow to 500 from 300.
Bechtel's staffing is only at 320 today, not 500, but this failure to actually grow jobs after getting subsidies for job growth is pretty typical of these deals. My interpretation of this is that this is yet another move to get more tenants around its sports complex, to raise the stakes and apparent costs if the hockey team moves. Glendale will cry that they can't lost the hockey team, think of all the tenants in the surrounding real estate, when it was the city itself that spent money to put all its eggs in this one basket.
The only funny part of the article is the Talavi real estate folks. They were thrilled to gain a new tenant in 2002 due to the city's relocation subsidies, but now suddenly think such subsidies are unfair.
Bechtel's landlords at Talavi aren't happy about the move.
"We were actually a little surprised to hear Glendale was offering incentives," said Damon Elder, spokesman for Daymark Realty Advisers, which was negotiating a lease extension with Bechtel for Talavi's owners.
"We would think the city would be fair-minded with all of their corporate citizens. . . . I don't know why the city would be pitting one location against another."
For those of us who simply think of ourselves as residents of the Phoenix metropolitan area, or even broader just as Americans, we are surprised about the earlier subsidy as well, wondering why taxpayers of a small suburb are paying big bucks to move businesses back and forth a few miles across the town line.
But of course, this is not the worst example. A few years ago, Phoenix tried to spend $100 million in subsidies to move a Nordstrom and a Bloomingdales one mile and one freeway exit (out of Scottsdale).
By the way, Glendale's economic development director has made it official, we live in a corporate state:
"[government relocation incentives are] just a modern, Fortune 100 corporate expectation," Friedman said. "If you have a top-notch, world-class company in your community, your absolute goal should be to make sure they are successful and are content in your community and want to remain."
Arizona police officers accused of misconduct will soon have more protection.
Gov. Jan Brewer has signed six bills, backed by police unions, that spell out procedures for internal investigations.
Great, because it was not already hard enough to take action against bad cops in a system where all the insiders - police and prosecutors - generally close ranks to defend them from scrutiny.
The new laws are not all bad -- at least one gives protections to internal whistle-blowers, something that is needed in a police culture that has an effective law of omerta against cops who call out other cops for bad behavior. My guess, though, is that this rule will be used by unions who want to harass police management, rather than to protect street cops who testify against other street cops.
Defenders of the law said
Police unions weren't asking for anything more than the due process an arrested citizen receives, said Larry A. Lopez, president of the Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs.
"Just because we wear uniforms, we're not relegated to a watered-down version of constitutional rights," said Lopez, a Tucson officer.
I have said a number of times that this is not quite true. Police are given powers to use force against other citizens that the rest of us do not possess. This necessitates a kind of scrutiny and oversight by the state that would not be appropriate or legal for the average citizen. For example, police simply do not have the privacy rights in conducting their jobs that the rest of us do. We have seen too many times that when we give police broad discretion, special powers, and no oversight (or even a nudge and a wink guarantee against oversight), bad things inevitably happen.
If you are confused about what I am talking about, go read Radley Balko's archives.
Electing law enforcement officers is a terrible idea, but like most of the country, we do it here in Arizona. We shouldn't be surprised, then, when Sheriff's try to pump up their image by portraying themselves as the last bastion against an invading horde.
When it was over, Sheriff Paul Babeu issued a news release declaring that Pinal County is "the No. 1 pass-through county in all of America for drug and human trafficking."
It's a line the sheriff has used countless times - most recently on Thursday in testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security - as he criticizes the federal government for failing to secure the border.
There's just one problem: There is no data to support the assertion.
In fact, an Arizona Republic analysis of statistics from local, state and federal sources found that, while sheriff's officials do bust smugglers and seize pot, Pinal County accounts for only a fraction of overall trafficking.
The newspaper also found that other headline-grabbing claims by Babeu are contradicted by statistical evidence or greatly exaggerated.
Babeu's County, for example, does not even touch the border. And crime rates in AZ have fallen faster over the last 10 years than the national average, right during the period of high illegal immigration.
I wanted to leave Glendale's proposed $100 million subsidy of the purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team by Matthew Hulzinger behind for a while, but I had to comment on something in the paper yesterday.
The Arizona Republic, which is an interested party given that a good part of their revenues depend on having major sports teams in town, had an amazing editorial on Tuesday. Basically, it said that Goldwater, who has sued to bock the bond issue under Arizona's gift clause, needed to stop being so pure in its beliefs and defense of the Constitution and that it should jump down in the political muck with everyone else.
I encourage you to read the article and imagine that it involved defense of any other Constitutional provision, say free-speech rights or civil rights. The tone of the editorial would be unthinkable if aimed at any other defense of a Constitutional protection. Someone always has utilitarian arguments for voiding things like free speech protections -- that is why defenders of such rights have to protect them zealously and consistently. The ACLU doesn't get into arguments whether particular speech is right or wrong or positive or negative -- it just defends the principle. Can't Goldwater do the same?
My thoughts on the Coyotes deal are here and her. Rather than dealing with the editorial line by line, which spends graph after graph trying to convince readers that Darcy Olsen, head of the Goldwater Institute, is "snotty," here are some questions that the AZ Republic could be asking if it were not in the tank for this deal
- How smart is it for the taxpayers of Glendale to have spent $200 million plus the proposed $100 million more to keep a team valued at most at $117 million? (several other teams have sold lately for less than $100 million) And, despite $300 million in taxpayer investments, the city has no equity in the team -- just the opposite, it has promised a sweetheart no-bid stadium management deal of an additional $100 million over 5 years on top of the $300 million.
- The Phoenix Coyotes has never made money in Arizona, and lost something like $40 million last year. Why has no one pushed the buyer for his plan to profitability? The $100 million Glendale taxpayers are putting up is essentially an equity investment for which it gets no equity. If the team fails, the revenue to pay the bonds goes away. The team needs to show a plan that makes sense before they get the money -- heck the new owners admit they will continue to lose money in the foreseeable future. I have heard folks suggest that the Chicago Blackhawks (Hulzinger's home town team) are a potential model, given that they really turned themselves around. But at least one former NHL executive has told me this is absurd. The Blackhawks were a storied franchise run into the ground by horrible management. Turning them around was like turning around the Red Sox in baseball. Turning around the Coyotes is like turning around the Tampa Bay Rays. The fact is that the team lost $40 million this year despite the marketing value of having been in the playoffs last year and having the second lowest payroll in the league. The tickets are cheap and there is (at least for now) free parking and still they draw the lowest attendance in the NHL. Part of the problem is Glendale itself, located on the ass-end of the metro area (the stadium is 45 minutes away for me, and I live near the centerline of Phoenix).
- If taxpayers are really getting items worth $100 million in this deal (e.g. parking rights which Glendale probably already owns, a lease guarantee, etc) why can't the team buyer use this same collateral to get the financing privately? I have seen the AZ Republic write article after article with quote after quote from Hulzinger but have not seen one reporter ask him this obvious question. I have asked Hulzinger associates this question and have never gotten anything but vague non-answers. A likely answer is what I explained yesterday, that Hulzinger is a smart guy and knows the team is not worth more than $100 million, but the NHL won't sell it for less than $200 million (based on a promise the Commissioner made to other owners when they took ownership of the team). Hulzinger needed a partner who was desperate enough to make up the $100 million the NHL is trying to overcharge him -- enter the City of Glendale, who, like a losing gambler, keeps begging for more credit to double down to try to make good its previous losses.
- Glendale often cites a $500 million figure in losses if the team moves. Has anyone questioned or shown any skepticism for this number? My presumption is that it includes lost revenue at all the restaurants and stores around the stadium, but is that revenue really going to go away entirely, or just move to other area businesses? If your favorite restaurant goes out of business, do you stop going out to eat or just go somewhere different?
- We hear about government subsidies to move businesses from other countries to the US, or other states to Arizona, and these tend to be of dubious value. Does it really make sense for Glendale taxpayers to pay $400 million to move business to another part of the Phoenix metropolitan area?
- Why do parties keep insisting that Goldwater sit down and "negotiate?" Goldwater does not have the power to change the Constitutional provision. Do folks similarly call on the NAACP to "negotiate" over repeal of Jim Crow laws? Call on the ACLU to negotiate over "don't ask, don't tell"? This may be the way Chicago politics works, with community organizers holding deals ransom in return for a negotiated payoff, but I am not sure that is why Goldwater is in this fight. The Gift Clause is a fantastic Constitutional provision that the US Constitution has, and should be defended.
- Jim Balsillie offered to buy out the team (and move it to Canada) without public help and to pay off $50 million of the existing Glendale debt as an exit fee. Thus the city would have had $150 in debt and no team. Now, it will be $300 million in debt and on the hook for $100 million more and may still not have a team in five years when, almost inevitably, another hubristic rich guy finds he is not magically smarter about hockey and can't make the team work in Arizona. Has anyone compared these two deals? Private businesses cut losses all the time -- politicians almost never do, in part because they are playing with house money (ours).