Posts tagged ‘joe arpaio’

Remember Richard Jewell

My wife and I were discussing the Atlanta bombing last night and it struck me that, with all the false reports out of Boston, it would be useful to remind folks of the fate of Richard Jewell, a man whose life was essentially destroyed by our collective need for quick answers about a tragedy.  But Patrick at Popehat has already done the heavy lifting, so I will turn it over to him.

By the way, in an odd local angle on the story, for some reason Fox decided to interview Joe Arpaio as an "expert" after the blast.  Joe is an expert -- at getting himself media attention.  But I am trying to remember the last terrorist incident we had here in Phoenix.

One Reason the Press is Always So Statist

Why is the media always so deferential to the state?  The reasons may be in part ideological, but there is a public choice explanation as well -- the state (particularly local police and crime stories) generate most of its headlines, and so they have a financial incentive to retain access to the source of so much of their content.

Perhaps even more revealing, though, was this:

To start, [San Diego County Sheriff's Office] spokeswoman Jan Caldwell explained to the room full of journalists why it is so important to be nice to her: "If you are rude, if you are obnoxious, if you are demanding, if you call me a liar, I will probably not talk to you anymore. And there's only one sheriff's department in town, and you can go talk to the deputies all you want but there's one PIO."

Here we have the heart of the matter. "Professional" journalists may, indeed, be brilliant, talented, well-trained, professional, with an abiding appetite for hard-hitting but neutral reporting. Yet professional journalists also depend on relationships. Ms. Caldwell calls that fact out, sending law enforcement's core message to the press: if you want access, play the game.

The game colors mainstream media coverage of criminal justice. Here's my overt bias: I'm a criminal defense attorney, a former prosecutor, and a critic of the criminal justice system. In my view, the press is too often deferential to police and prosecutors. They report the state's claims as fact and the defense's as nitpicking or flimflam. They accept the state's spin on police conduct uncritically. They present criminal justice issues from their favored "if it bleeds it leads" perspective rather than from a critical and questioning perspective, happily covering deliberate spectacle rather than calling it out as spectacleThey accept leaks and tips and favors from law enforcement, even when those tips and leaks and favors violate defendants' rights, and even when the act of giving the tip or leak or favor is itself a story that somebody ought to be investigating. In fact, they cheerfully facilitate obstruction of justice through leaks. They dumb down criminal justice issues to serve their narrative, or because they don't understand them.

This "professional" press approach to the criminal justice system serves police and prosecutors very well. They favor reporters who hew to it. Of course they don't want to answer questions from the 800-pound bedridden guy in fuzzy slippers in his mother's basement. But it's not because an 800-pound bedridden guy can't ask pertinent questions. It's because he's frankly more likely to ask tough questions, more likely to depart from the mutually accepted narrative about the system, less likely to be "respectful" in order to protect his access. (Of course, he might also be completely nuts, in a way that "mainstream" journalism screens out to some extent.)

Which is why, despite Joe Arpaio's frequent antics that make national news, it falls to our local alt-weekly here in Phoenix rather than our monopoly daily paper to do actual investigative reporting on the Sheriff's office.

Arguing Against Personal Interest

The best time to argue for general principles is when they work against one's own interest, to firmly establish that they are indeed principles rather than political opportunism.  Two examples:

First, from a topic rife with political opportunism, the Supreme Court a three-judge panel recently ruled Obama's NLRB not-really-recess appointments were unconstitutional.  I think that was the right decision,  but a President has got to be able to get an up or down vote in a timely manner on appointments.  As much as I would love to see all of Obama's appointments languish for, oh, four years or so, and as much as I really don't like his activist NLRB, having to resort to procedural hacks of this sort just to fill administrative positions is not good government.  The Senate rules (or traditions as the case may be) that even one Senator may put a hold on confirmations is simply insane.  While I am a supporter of the filibuster, I think the filibuster should not apply to certain Constitutionally mandated activities.  Specifically:  passing a budget and appointment confirmations.

Second, readers of this blog know how much I dislike our sheriff Joe Arpaio.  He was unfortunately re-elected a couple of months ago, though the vote was closer than usual.  This week, an Arizona group who also does not like Joe has announced it is going to seek a recall election against him.  Again, as much as I would like to see Arpaio ride off into the sunset, this practice of gearing up for recall elections just days after the election is over is just insane.  It is a total waste of money and resources.  While I don't like to do anything that helps incumbents, there has to be some sort of waiting period (perhaps 1/4 of the office term) before we start this silliness.

Claiming to Find One Variable That Explains Absolutely Everything in a Complex System

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).

What Joe Arpaio's PR Activity Has Been Displacing

While Sheriff Joe was pursuing a vendetta against County officials, chasing down Mexicans with broken tail lights, and raiding dry cleaners demanding immigration papers, over 400 sexual assaults were going under-investigated.  According to the article, this was not an accident -- there was a real prioritization that put few resources in the special victims unit and put more and better staff on things like counter-terrorism (Phoenix being a well-known hotbed of terrorist activity).

The understaffing in the special-victims unit was due in part to the Sheriff's Office's priorities -- and the special-victims unit was not one of them, according to a half-dozen current and former sheriff's employees.

Despite a Maricopa County hiring freeze prompted by the faltering economy, the Sheriff's Office from 2005 through mid-2008 was hiring 45 to 50 new deputies annually and tackling initiatives that included counterterrorism and homeland-security enhancements. The office also embraced immigration enforcement, sending 60 deputies and 100 detention officers through a federal immigration-training program and creating a human-smuggling unit with at least 15 dedicated deputies.

Staffing in the special-victims unit remained unchanged during those years: four detectives....

The Sheriff's Office was allocated more than $600,000 in fiscal 2007 for six full-time positions for "investigating cases involving sexual abuse, domestic violence, abuse and child abuse." The Sheriff's Office now says the six new positions were to focus solely on child-abuse cases. In any event, they cannot say where those deputies went to work.

"We don't know," Chief Deputy Sheridan said. "We've looked, and we can't find any of those position numbers which were allocated for child-abuse cases."

This is due in part to the acknowledged misallocation of roughly $100 million in agency funds that had patrol deputies being paid out of an account designated for detention officers.

The department was almost certainly spending more on Joe Arpaio's PR than it was on the special victims unit.  Dozens of cases showed no investigation at all, and hundreds showed that no contact had been made either with the victim or the suspect.   Piles of case files were found random file cabinets and even one officer's garage.

Agent of the State

Somehow the picture of my son posing with one of Joe Arpaio's new recruits got messed up in an earlier post.  I know you all were desperate to see it, so here is the repaired image.

Is the Real Intent of Cyber-Bullying Laws to Eliminate Criticism of Politicians?

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
responsibilities;
(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.

Why Sheriff Joe is Still Sheriff

For those of you not in Arizona that wonder from all the articles about him why Sheriff Joe is still elected by almost landslide majorities, and why Republicans all over the state still beg him for his endorsement, here it is:

A subsequent examination of the sheriff's file showed that residents of Maricopa County wrote to him regarding the presence of Mexicans in greater Phoenix.

Citizens saw day laborers. They saw people with brown skin. They heard Spanish spoken.

And what the letters reveal is enormous anxiety about Hispanics:

  • "I always see numerous Mexicans standing around in that area . . . These Mexicans swarmed around my car, and I was so scared and alarmed . . . I was never so devastated in my life regarding these circumstances . . . Although the Mexicans at this location may be within their legal right to be there . . . I merely bring this matter to your attention in order that all public agencies, FBI, etc., may be kept informed of these horrific circumstances."
  • "I would love to see an immigrant sweep conducted in Surprise, specifically at the intersection of Grand and Greenway. The area contains dozens of day workers attempting to flag down motorists seven days a week."
  • "The Mesa police chief drags his feet and stalls . . . the head of the Mesa police union is a Hispanic."
  • "As a retiree in Sun City, formerly from Minnesota, I am a fan of yours and what you are doing to rid the area of illegal immigrants . . . when I was in McDonald's at Bell Road and Boswell (next to the Chase Bank) this noon, there was not an employee in sight, or within hearing, who spoke English as a first language — to my dismay. From the staff at the registers to the staff back in the kitchen area, all I heard was Spanish — except when they haltingly spoke to a customer. You might want to check this out."

And Sheriff Arpaio did check it out.

None of the Hispanics described in the letters had broken the law. It is not against the law to speak Spanish or work as a day laborer.

Arpaio nonetheless gave the correspondence to Deputy Chief Brian Sands. Federal Judge Snow determined that raids and roundups quickly followed. Hispanics were rousted because white people were uncomfortable.

Sheriff Joe once did a roundup in tony Fountain Hills, which I would be surprised if it had even 5% Hispanic population, and managed to drag in for various petty violations (e.g. cracked windshield) a group that was about 95% Hispanic.  His favorite thing to do, when he isn't busting into homes with Hollywood celebrities, is to send his deputies into a business and have them handcuff everyone with brown skin and refuse to release them until they or their family members have arrived to prove they are in the US legally.

This whole article is a good roundup of yet another abusive side of Arpaio, his flagrant disregard for public records laws and the rules of evidence.  In Maricopa County, "exculpatory evidence" and "shredded" have roughly the same meaning.

Bad Boys, Bad Boys

If nothing else, the OWS movement is helping ordinary Americans see the abuse of power that is so endemic in many police departments.  I am tired of the quasi-cult of police ass-kicking on average citizens, as fed by reality cop shows and folks like Joe Arpaio.  As Radley Balko points out, the casual way that the officer hoses down citizens who are just sitting on a curb with pepper spray is just outrageous.  From past experience, my guess is that these guys were ready to go limp and be dragged off - the pepper spray was just pure torture for the entertainment of the cops.

We would not do this to a terrorist in Gitmo, so why are we doing this to American citizens? I think I get particularly angry and intolerant of this kind of crap because I used to be the kind of law and order conservative that would excuse this kind of behavior, and that embarrasses me. The saying goes that a converted Catholic is often more fervent than a born one, so to I guess for this civil libertarian.

Joe Arpaio, Web Mogul

Joe Arpaio, I suppose seeing how Ben Quayle rode his writing gig for the Dirty into Congress, has decided he wants to compete with all manner of bottom-fishing web sites.  He has created a special web feature in a what he states is an attempt to drive more people to his web site -- the goofy booking photo of the day.

Several local lawyers, including some mental health advocates, are asking if it is appropriate for a sheriff to run online contests to vote for the inmate with the worst booking photos.  This is a great example of a situation (like video surveillance) where public officials have less, rather than more rights and privileges than ordinary citizens.  Kudos to Scott Ambrose for making a point that is seldom made, and we should remind politicians of all the time:

Arpaio says that booking photos are aired in the news media every day. A local alternative weekly even took a page from Arpaio's playbook earlier this year and let readers have fun with some of the sheriff's mug shots.

"Sheriff Joe will argue that 'I can do this because New Times can,' " Ambrose said. "There's lots of things the government can't do that you and I can."

I have another question - for what possible public purpose is Arpaio spending taxpayer money to drive people to his web site?  This is so incredibly self-serving its hard to believe, but fits right in with Arpaio's whole history of taxpayer-funded self-promotion.

PS-  I have always argued that booking photos should not be public information, as they amount to an improper punishment.  The legal system has a technical term for someone who has been arrested but has not gone to trial:  Innocent.

Aaaaaaarrrrrrggggghhh

http://ktar.com/category/local-news-articles/20110215/Arpaio-leads-in-poll-for-Senate-race/

The early returns are in, and right now it would seem Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has the early edge in replacing Jon Kyl.

According to Roll Call, Arpaio led a field of potential Republican candidates by 21 percent in a poll of likely GOP primary voters.

Though this makes us feel better, a little

Maricopa County's self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff in America," Joe Arpaio, says he's considering running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Senator Jon Kyl.

That said, New Times guaran-damn-tees he won't actually run.

"The issue is whether I want to leave this office and go to Washington and try to make a difference there, which I would do if I run and win," the 78-year-old Arpaio tells The Hill. "I think I could do that job."

Sorry, Joe, we've heard it all before.

As you may recall, Arpaio pulled a similar stunt last year when he claimed to be considering running for governor. And he did the same thing four years earlier, when he also claimed he was mulling over a run for the governorship.

In neither case did Arpaio actually run.

You see, Arpaio seems to get off on seeing his name in the headlines, and what better way to make that happen than to continually fuel speculation about potentially running for office -- and a poll showing he's the front-runner certainly doesn't help things.

Update: This was an interesting post about how TV has become far more accepting of police and proprietorial abuse in its heroes, comparing quasi-terrorist Steve McGarrett from the current incarnation of Hawaii 5-0 with the respectful and conscientious Jack Lord version.  Next up, the new show Arpaio 4-8?

My Vote Yesterday

Like many libertarians, I am tempted not to vote each election, though I usually do.  However, choosing between whatever lesser evil exists in the Coke or Pepsi party gets tiresome.  Given that, I have never voted in a party primary, until yesterday when I voted in the Republican primary simply to vote against Andrew Thomas for state Attorney General.  Thomas has for years been Joe Arpaio's chief enabler and of late as County Attorney has spent his time launching frivolous lawsuits against his political enemies, from County supervisors to judges.  When attorneys from adjacent counties would not support his suits, he sought criminal charges against them.

Most recently, it was revealed that a series of grand juries, which typically will indict an inanimate object, not only refused to indict in several of his cases but ordered him to shut down the investigation entirely.  This useless prosecution of a County Supervisor turned out to be part of a plan.  When Thomas decided to vacate the County Attorney position to run for state DA, he disagreed with many of the County Supervisors as to who his replacement should be, and as narrated in this letter, began filing charges against Supervisors to deny them a quorum  (apparently some quid pro quo discussions, of the sort "we will drop the charges if you vote how we want" were actually recorded and turned over to the US Attorney, so if Thomas should win his election we be following the NY/Spitzer path of having our top state legal officer facing felony charges and disbarment.

Unfortunately, Thomas (and Arpaio) have somehow become folk-heroes among lame-brained Arizona voters, who tend to accept any sort of civil rights violations by officials as necessary measures to maintain the peace in the face of the dreaded Mexican immigration wave, so their re-election chances are not necessarily hurt by near Louisiana or Chicago levels of abuses of power.

I was tempted not to vote -- you know, one vote won't matter -- because I felt downright icky actually voting in the Coke primary.  But in AZ, the Coke primary is pretty much the election since the state is so full of Coke voters, so I did it.  As it turns out, my vote may matter.

99.7% of Precincts Reporting
(2232 of 2239 Precincts)

Republican Votes Percent
HORNE, TOM 233,700 50.0%
THOMAS, ANDREW P. 233,327 50.0%
Total Number of Votes 467,027

Don't know a thing about Tom Horne, but I eagerly voted for him as not-Thomas.  Here is the lock of the week:  with a vote this close, Thomas will keep this in the court for months, perhaps years.  If he gets the wrong decision, he will go after the judge, and if that doesn't work.....

Update: Apparently, Arpaio got his guy elected in the race to fill Thomas's county attorney seat, so I suppose once we get rid of one Arpaio-enabler we just end up with another.  I took Arpaio's list of people he endorsed yesterday and the only votes I cast were for whoever the challenger was to team Arpaio.

Update #2: This is a depressing quote (emphasis added)

Oddly, the truth-telling was attributed to our own local Pinocchio, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, in regards the decisive victory of Bill Montgomery over interim Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley.

"That's going to make my job very easy," Arpaio said of Montgomery's win.

Jan Brewer Jumps the Shark, Slides into Outright Prejudice

On this blog, over the last couple of months, I have presented a pretty clear set of facts showing that, with the possible exception of some rural border regions beset by drug gangs, the vast majority of Arizona has experienced rapidly falling crime rates, in fact crime rates falling much faster than in the rest of the country.  The crime rates of even our key border towns has remained flat.

What to make, then, of these statements by our governor.

Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday reiterated her assertion that the majority of illegal immigrants are coming to the United States for reasons other than work, saying most are committing crimes and being used as drug mules by the cartels.

Brewer's remarks are an expansion of comments she made last week during a televised debate between the four Republican gubernatorial candidates....

In the debate, Jette [a candidate running against Brewer] said that most people who cross illegally into Arizona are "just trying to feed their families." Brewer disputed that, saying, "They're coming here, and they're bringing drugs.

And they're doing drop houses, and they're extorting people and they're terrorizing the families." The governor, who has become a national media figure since signing Senate Bill 1070 into law on April 23, went further on Friday, saying that the "majority of the illegal trespassers that are coming (into) the state of Arizona are under the direction and control of organized drug cartels."

When pressed, Brewer said that even those who do come to the United States looking for work are often ensnared by the cartels.

"They are accosted, and they become subjects of the drug cartels."

Estimates are that there are 8-12 million illegal immigrants in the US (Brewer's hispano-phobic allies would put the number much higher).  They are mostly all drug dealers and criminals?  Really?

I try really hard not to try to guess at what motivates folks I disagree with by assuming they are driven by something dark and evil, but how else in this case can one describe opinions like this so contrary to facts as anything other than prejudice against a particular ethnic group?

Just look at the actions of our governor and folks like Joe Arpaio.  If it really were the case that illegal immigrants are all criminals uninterested in legal work, then why is so much recent legislation aimed at business owners that hire illegal immigrants?  Or at day labor centers?  Why are all of Sheriff Joe's immigration sweeps raiding lawful businesses rather than, say, crack houses?  After all, if illegal immigrants are all just drug dealers not looking for real work, why spend so much time looking for them, uh, doing real work?

Postscript: If Brewer is in fact correct, then there is a dead easy solution for the illegal immigration problem -- legalize drugs.  She and I both agree that the worst criminal elements of illegal immigrants would be much less of a problem without the illegal drug trade.  The only difference is that I think that segment makes up less than 1% of the population of illegal immigrants, and she thinks its everyone.

Further, to the extent that some illegal immigrants just trying to support their families are "ensnared" by drug cartels (whatever that means) it is because of their immigration status.  Make them legal residents of the country, and no one has any particular leverage over them.

Note to Commenters: Many, many of you have disagreed with me vociferously on immigration.  Please, I would love to see reasoned comments defending Brewer, particularly with data.  In particular, please use the laws of supply and demand to explain how the majority of 8-12 million people are able to earn a living in the illegal drug trade in the southwest.  To help you out, there are about 6.6 million people in Arizona.  Based on national rates of 8% of over age 12 being users, about 500,000 of those are illegal drug users.  One estimate is that there are 500,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona.

Update: Are she and I living in the same state?

Arizona GOP Gov. Jan Brewer claimed recently that law enforcement has been finding beheaded bodies in the desert "” but local agencies say they've never encountered such a case.

"Our law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert either buried or just lying out there that have been beheaded," Brewer said Sunday, suggesting that the beheadings were part of increased violence along the border.

But medical examiners from six of Arizona's counties "” four of which border Mexico "” tell the Arizona Guardian that they've never encountered an immigration-related crime in which the victim's head was cut off.

I Was Wrong

I like to prominently highlight when I have been wrong.  In the past, I have said that the US follows a double standard on our Mexican and Canadian borders.  Where are the Canadian wall proposals?  Where are the Canadian workers getting handcuffed by Joe Arpaio.

But apparently I was wrong.  The US is working hard to apply an equal level of obnoxiousness to Canadians.

The Immigration Non-Crime Wave

Proponents of tougher immigration enforcement often use crime as their big scare factor in trying to influence people to their point.  Only tougher laws and Joe Arpaio, they caution, stand athwart the coming immigrant rape of Phoenix.

But when the case is built on one or two high-profile crime where the perpetrator has not even been identified, rather than statistics, we can be suspicious of how strong the case is.  I have cited historical figures here, but the WSJ has the new figures for 2009:

Violent crime fell significantly last year in cities across the U.S., according to preliminary federal statistics, challenging the widely held belief that recessions drive up crime rates.

The incidence of violent crimes such as murder, rape and aggravated assault was down 5.5% from 2008, and 6.9% in big cities. It fell 2.4% in long-troubled Detroit and plunged 16.6% in Phoenix, despite a perception of rising crime that has fueled an immigration backlash....

In Phoenix, police spokesman Trent Crump said, "Despite all the hype, in every single reportable crime category, we're significantly down." Mr. Crump said Phoenix's most recent data for 2010 indicated still lower crime. For the first quarter of 2010, violent crime was down 17% overall in the city, while homicides were down 38% and robberies 27%, compared with the same period in 2009.

Arizona's major cities all registered declines. A perceived rise in crime is one reason often cited by proponents of a new law intended to crack down on illegal immigration. The number of kidnappings reported in Phoenix, which hit 368 in 2008, was also down, though police officials didn't have exact figures.

And just to head off the obvious straw man, 2008 was not somehow a peak year, it was actually well below historical levels.

Glass Houses

I was forwarded an email today, and I can't honestly figure out the source since it is one of those that has been forwarded a zillion times, but at some point it passed through the Arizona 2010 Project.  It consisted mainly of pictures of desert areas along major immigration routes that had been trashed by illegal immigrants.  This picture is pretty typical.

Certainly an ugly site, particularly for someone who lives and works in the outdoors as I do.

Here is a quote, I think from the original email but it may have been from one of the forwarders (emphasis added):

This layup is on an 'illegal super - highway' from Mexico to the USA (Tucson) used by human smugglers.

This layup area is located in a wash area approximately .5 of a mile long just south of Tucson.

We estimate there are over 3000 discarded back packs in this layup area. Countless water containers, food wrappers, clothing, and soiled baby diapers. And as you can see in this picture, fresh footprints leading right into it. We weren't too far behind them.

As I kept walking down the wash, I was sure it was going to end just ahead, but I kept walking and walking, and around every corner was more and more trash!

And of course the trail leading out of the layup area heading NORTH to Tucson, then on to your town tomorrow.

They've already come through here. Is this America the Beautiful?  Or another landfill?

The trash left behind by the illegals is another of the Environmental Disasters to hit the USA. Had this been done in one of our great Northwest Forests or Seashore National Parks areas there would be an uprising of the American people........but this is remote Arizona-Mexican border.

Well, it so happens my life is spent cleaning up public parks.  My company's mission is to privately operate public parks.  A lot of that job is picking up and hauling away the trash.  And I can tell you something with absolute certainty:  This is exactly what a highly trafficked area in our great Northwest Forests or Seashore National Parks would look like if someone wasn't there to pick up.  Here is one example from a northwest forest, in Oregon:

We run busy campgrounds and day use areas all over the country, and you would not believe the trash on the ground on a Monday morning.  And this is after the place was cleaned on Sunday morning and with trash cans available every 10 feet to throw things away correctly.  I have seen a few areas in the National Forest that were busy ad hoc camping areas -- meaning they had no facilities, no staff, and no trash cans -- and they were absolutely trashed by good old red-blooded American citizens.  Parts looked no different than this picture.  Most of these areas have since been closed, because of this ecological damage.

In fact, in my presentation I make to public agencies about our services, I say that we are actually in the environmental preservation business.  By attracting recreators to defined areas of the wilderness where we have staff to clean up after the visitors and limit their impact on nature, we are helping to preserve the other 99% of the land.

So, yes this is ugly, but it frustrates me that this is used to play into the Joe Arpaio type stereotypes of Mexicans

All these people that come over, they could come with disease. There's no control, no health checks or anything. They check fruits and vegetables, how come they don't check people? No one talks about that! They're all dirty. I sent out 200 inmates into the desert, they picked up 18 tons of garbage that they bring in"”the baby diapers and all that. Where's everybody who wants to preserve the desert?"

To my mind, this is an argument against Mexican immigration in the same way that violence against women is used as an argument against legalizing prostitution.  Prostitutes suffer abuse in large part because their profession is illegal which limits their access to the legal system when victimized, not because violence is inherent to their profession.  Trash in a wash in the desert is a result of the illegality of immigration that forces people into stream beds rather than city check points when they enter the country.

Postscript #1: Please, if you are a good, clean, thoughtful user of public parks, do not write me thinking I have dissed you.  I have not.  Most of our visitors are great and thoughtful, and we really appreciate that.  But it takes only a few to make an unbelievable mess.

Postscript #2: I am willing to believe that poorly educated immigrants have fewer litter taboos than we have been acculturated with.   But I have seen enough to say that no ethnic group out there should be too smug.  For God sakes, there had to be a large effort near the top of Mt. Everest to clean up a huge dump that had accumulated of oxygen bottles and other trash near the summit.   Here are pictures of what rich Americans and Europeans do on Mt Everest when they are hiking and there is no trash can nearby:

When Allies Are Worse Than Your Enemies

Back in college, I burned a lot hotter on a variety of political issues.  I would argue with about anyone, and often did.  The dinner table was almost always the venue for some political fight.  During those arguments, I quickly discovered something -- people nominally on my side of the argument were sometimes my biggest problem.  I remember any number of times telling some person to shut up and let me argue the point.  People email me all the time asking me to ban some idiot commenter trolling in opposition to all my posts.  I tell them I am much more likely to ban an idiot commenter nominally supporting my point than the other way around.

Which brings me to Eric Holder:

"I've just expressed concerns on the basis of what I've heard about the law. But I'm not in a position to say at this point, not having read the law, not having had the chance to interact with people are doing the review, exactly what my position is," Mr. Holder told the House Judiciary Committee.

This weekend Mr. Holder told NBC's "Meet the Press" program that the Arizona law "has the possibility of leading to racial profiling." He had earlier called the law's passage "unfortunate," and questioned whether the law was unconstitutional because it tried to assume powers that may be reserved for the federal government.

Rep. Ted Poe, who had questioned Mr. Holder about the law, wondered how he could have those opinions if he hadn't yet read the legislation.

"It's hard for me to understand how you would have concerns about something being unconstitutional if you haven't even read the law," the Texas Republican told the attorney general.

I have never been totally comfortable with the Democratic support of immigration anyway.  The party, particularly under this administration, seems to take the position that the government can be as authoritarian as it likes, as long as it does not discriminate racially in doing so.  This post hypothesizes that the Democrats' support for immigration is political rather than principled, a desire to create the next new underclass that can be exploited for political points, and I can't really disagree based on past history.

Readers know I support open immigration.  I see immigration restrictions as government licensing of who can and can't work (and who can and can't be hired) -- an intrusion Conservatives would likely reject in any other context.  Since I am opposed to immigration limits, I am opposed to giving government extra powers in the name of enforcement, in the same way I oppose, say, asset seizure laws originally aimed at enforcement of drug prohibition.

I acknowledged that the law is less onerous in its amended form (because, you see, I actually read the whole thing, here and here for example), but what the law's supporters fail to deal with in claiming the letter of the law will not be enforced in a racist manner is how even existing law is being enforced here in Phoenix by Joe Arpaio in a racist manner.  When Joe goes into a business, and handcuffs all the people with brown skin, releasing them only when a relative or friend races to the police station with a birth certificate, it is an ugly, un-American scene (here or here or here).  I would take supporters of the bill more at their word as to how the law will actually be used in practice if they were not the same people actively cheer-leading Joe Arpaio at every turn.

Katie Bar the Door

I have a new theory -- that the most dangerous circumstances for individual liberty in this country are when Conservatives and Liberals agree.  When there is some issue where the authoritarianism of the right coincides with the authoritarianism of the left, then watch out.  The example I offer today is child molestation prosecutions, where the law and order Right meets the smug for-the-children moralizing of the Left.  Where Janet Reno meets Joe Arpaio.

Congrats to Tonya Craft for her acquittal, and here's hoping (though there is not much chance) that the prosecutors and particularly that jackass of a judge suffer some sort of negative consequences from their outlandish abuse of due process.  My jury experience on a similar case here.

UpdateAnd speaking of Sheriff Joe...

The Immigration Debate and Racism

Exclusionist Conservatives in Arizona are quick to defend themselves against charges of racism.  While I tend to be an pro-immigration hawk, I accept that there are issues, such as the conflict of immigration and the welfare state, where reasonable people can disagree as to solutions without any hint of racism charging the debate.  I really, really resist playing the race card on anyone.

However, if Conservatives really want to discourage charges of racism, they need to  stop playing on fears of immigrant crime as a main argument in their case (example from Expresso Pundit).  Such fears of minority group violence are part and parcel of every racist position in history.   The out-group is always vilified as criminal, whether it be blacks in the 60's or Italians and Eastern Europeans earlier in the century or the Irish in the 19th century.

There is no evidence either recently or throughout history of immigrant-led crime waves, and in fact as I wrote the other day crime rates in Arizona are improving throughout this "invasion" at a faster rate than the US average. So when Conservatives grab a single example, such as the Pinal County shooting  (for which no suspects have been identified) as "proof" we need immigration reform, they are no different than Al Sharpton grandstanding based on the Tawana Brawley case  (and possibly these cases could be even more similar, update: or perhaps not).

Stop trying to manufacture a crime spree that does not exist.  Sure, illegal immigrants commit some murders.  So do every other group.  There is no evidence they commit such murders at a disproportionate rate.  And yes, I understand there are violent, paramilitary gangs roving Northern Mexico, which currently is in a state of chaos, that we really don't want to spill over into Arizona.  But this has been a threat for years, and for all the fear, there is no evidence that they are somehow increasing their activities here.  And even if they were, laws that give Joe Arpaio additional power to harass day laborers in Phoenix are sure as hell not going to scare them off.

God Forbid, Arpaio Running for Governor

Via Valley Fever:

There is a report circulating right now, which -- if true -- confirms what many Arizona residents have been dreading for years: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will run for governor of the state of Arizona.

ABC 15 is reporting that Arpaio already has made the decision to take the plunge and will announce his candidacy on Monday.

According to "several high-ranking sources within the Sheriff's Department," all the necessary paperwork "has been filled out and is ready to file."

Unfortunately, he may well win.  There are two things an outsider needs to know about people in Arizona

  1. They have an insane, irrational fear of Mexican immigrants, who they see as disproportionately made up of gang lords who make Tony Soprano look like a pansy.  Of course, no one seems to have any actual personal experience with such violence or to be an actual victim, but they heard that the lady who put her cat in the microwave was threatened.
  2. They believe that only Joe Arpaio has been standing between them and total annihilation at the hands of the brown-skinned hordes.

Yes, Arpaio is not only liked here, he is freaking beloved by a near majority of the population.  He is the single most potent Republican name in the state -- one only has to look at the number of candidates seeking his endorsement.  For example, we have people running for the US Congress in this state who tout Arpaio's endorsement on their every poster.  Think of that -- US Congressmen running around seeking a sheriff's endorsement.

Just check this out.  A local Republican privately thinks Arpaio is a dangerous idiot, but he still seeks his backing in the election

Bill Montgomery, the candidate for Maricopa County Attorney backed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, strongly questions Sheriff Joe Arpaio's mental fitness and leadership ability in a secret tape made by county officials....

To Stapley [one of the county officials at the taped meeting], the Republican candidate made himself out to be a real Arpaio critic.

But, as we learned, Montgomery later teamed up with Arpaio in hopes of giving a boost to his campaign. Montgomery mailed a letter from Arpaio to the sheriff's supporters a couple of weeks ago, in which Arpaio praises the candidate and pledges to help him get elected.

We sort of feel bad for Montgomery in this situation -- no one likes to have a private conversation recorded without their knowledge. Yet getting beyond the ethics (and politics) of why the tape was made, Montgomery does come off looking fairly two-faced.

He's willing to take every cent Arpaio can raise for him, yet described the sheriff to Stapley as kind of a dottering old fool.

He also said he's not thrilled with Thomas' monolithic focus on illegal immigration. Yet that focus, of course, is shared by Arpaio.

Fellow Arpaio-haters will love this:

Montgomery related how he'd been talking about serious issues during a meeting with Arpaio when the conversation suddenly turned to "stories about his family, past Valentine's Days, that sort of thing."

An aide popped in to prompt the sheriff out of his daydreaming, and "it was a little bit like -- I don't want to disparage him -- but a little bit like someone coming into a nursing home and saying visiting hours are over now."

An Immigration Proposal

It is increasingly hard to have an immigration discussion here in Phoenix.  The vast majority of residents are absolutely convinced, despite evidence to the contrary, that they are in the middle of an apocalyptic version of the Mariel boatlift and have found themselves surrounded by Tony Montana's ready to carve them up save for Sheriff Joe Arpaio's brave intervention.

You never meet anyone who has actually had a problem with immigrants, and most like the immigrants, even the illegal ones, they know.   The other night a friend of mine said that we were all victims - I asked, "how?"  Everyone seems to have stories of immigrant hijinx, but they are all like the stories of the lady who put her cat in a microwave -- it happened to someone else.  And we do have stories of immigrant crimes on TV, but like shark attacks and extreme weather events, we overestimate their frequency because only certain outliers at the edges of the normal distribution get reported.

As an aside, one of the interesting things about the immigration debate for those of us who have read US history is how amazingly similar current arguments against particularly Mexican immigrants  (the commit crime, they don't integrate, they take jobs from Americans) are identical to arguments used against the Irish, Italians, and most eastern Europeans at one time or another.   I heard a woman at a part a while back of Slav background talking about how here immigrant grandparents were different than these Mexicans.  I told her that the exact same arguments she was using were used against Easter Europeans in the early 20th century, and in fact, and in fact the first real immigration quotas in this country were meant to keep her ancestors out.

As a result, I tend to grab the pro-immigration side in debates, even though I think there are some sensible reasons it probably has to be restricted or restructured, just because I really don't like the vibe coming from the immigration opponents around me.  When people take positions out of irrational fear and loathing, I am hugely reluctant to make any sort of common cause even if some of our concerns overlap.

Bruce McQuain argues that the main barrier to his advocating open immigration is the welfare state, and I am sympathetic to that argument.  I still, however, think we are smart enough to have a safety net and allow much more open immigration.  Bruce Pick has some sensible suggestions, and I published my own plan here.

And, as a final thought, the locals are never, ever going to convince me to their side when they trot Joe Arpaio up to the podium to make their case.  I have opposed the current immigration law in Arizona less because of any immigration issues and more because Joe does not need any more arbitrary authority.  I like what Radley Balko wrote the other day:

Dear Tea Partiers,

Ask Joe Arpaio to be your keynote speaker, and you've lost me.

He's a power-mad thug with a badge, the walking, mouth-breathing antithesis of the phrase "limited government."

Yes, this is but one state chapter in your movement. So distance yourself from them.

It's one thing to have a few idiots and nutjobs show up at your rallies.

It's quite another to invite one to speak.

Yours,

Radley Balko

More good stuff here.

Immigration is a thorny issue. But when we stand around and say "we don't want you here", I have to break ranks. When they say "these immigrants are damaging our economy", I have to break ranks. I don't have all the answers as to how to fix the problem, but I know that I refuse to close our country to people who want to live the American Dream. We have to enforce our laws, but when our laws are contrary to the very fabric of America, those laws need to change.

Why We May Be Stuck With Joe Arpaio

Conor Friedersdorf at Andrew Sullivan's blog has a number of comments from Arizona readers about why, despite all his nuttiness and outright hostility to civil rights, Joe Arpaio just keeps on getting elected here in Phoenix.

One sample:

...Arpaio is media-savvy, and picks his enemies well.  By this I don't mean his foes in county government or in the media, I mean the groups on whom he concentrates the resources of his office.  Last night, as every year about this time, all of the TV stations showed footage from this year's deadbeat dad roundup, along with the smirking Sheriff talking about how terrible it was that kids were going to have a lousy Xmas because these deadbeat dads hadn't been paying child support.  He also goes after animal cruelty cases with a vengeance.  I think he has a finely-tuned sense of which "others' are particularly viewed with scorn by his target supporters, and goes after them with a vengeance.  There is no doubt that many Maricopa county residents feel safer as a result of his policies, but also equally that his policies are never designed to impact negatively those supporters who see themselves as law-abiding (and hence won't ever be in jail), are white (and hence will never be racially profiled), and don't fit into any of the other classes that he has singled out for opprobrium.

On a side topic, one commenter does take this out of context:

But let's not forget we're in a state that effectively voted by referendum NOT to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the 90's

The issue as I remember it was not of honoring Martin Luther King Jr. but of adding another paid holiday for state workers.  As I recall, Republicans readily agreed to a state holiday for MLK as long as government workers gave up one somewhere else on the calendar, so it wasn't about MLK per se but about whether government employees should be allowed an extra paid day off.

The Continuing Downsides of Having a "Colorful" Sheriff

When Sheriff Joe Arpaio does not have his deputies busy arresting anyone found driving while Mexican, he is showing his contempt for the legal process.  Another weird story just keeps getting weirder:

Defying a court order, Maricopa County detention officer Adam Stoddard said he would rather go to jail than apologize for swiping a defense attorney's court file.Now it's up Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe to follow through on his contempt of court finding against Stoddard and place him in jail.

However, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio "“ who runs the jails "“ has vowed to challenge the order if it comes down to that....

...when it appeared that Stoddard was not going to call a press conference for his public apology, he called an impromptu press conference at 8:30 p.m. tonight "“ to state that he wasn't going to apologize.

If you missed it, Carlos Miller at the link above has the act of the deputy taking defense briefs off their table in court on video.

This is not the only example of the Sheriff going to extraordinary lengths to obtain information to which he has no right.  In an incredible and under-reported story, his armed posse actually stormed into the County offices and took over the computing center that contained emails he had been unable to obtain through court order.

Update:  Not sure I think too much of a judge's order to issue a public apology, but that is another story.

Sheriff Joe Launches Coup Against Rest of County Government

It appears that our Maricopa County government (which is the county that Phoenix is in) has risen to new levels of dysfunctionality.  Apparently our Sheriff Joe Arpaio missed his calling as South American general, launching a coup last week against the rest of the county government (for whom he supposedly works).

Maricopa County sheriff's deputies on Wednesday stormed into a county building, seized control of a computer system and threatened to arrest county employees if they tried to stop them, according to county officials.

County management responded by asking a Maricopa County Superior Court judge for a temporary restraining order against the Sheriff's Office.

The system, which provides access to law-enforcement databases, is the subject of a lawsuit between the Sheriff's Office and the Board of supervisors.

It links county computers to Department of Public Safety databases, which store criminal background information. But it also is a server and e-mail platform for several county agencies, including the Sheriff's and County Attorney's offices and the Superior Court.

Its management is the subject of a 2003 interagency agreement. But in light of recent layoffs of system operators due to budget cuts and squabbles among the agencies, the Sheriff's Office felt that sensitive data that should be the sole domain of law enforcement had become too available to the system's civilian administrators, who work for County Manager David Smith and the supervisors....

"The sheriff did not receive permission from - or give notice to - any other elected official or stakeholder agency before barging in with armed officers and demanding that he be given exclusive control," he said.

It turns out that the Sheriff's concern about protecting confidential information could well be a smokescreen.  For years, the Sheriff's office has been, unsuccessfully, attempting to gain access via the courts to records and emails from other departments, information that, coincidentally, resides on the seized servers.

Just as the Sheriff's Office is concerned about civilians' access to records, county management is concerned the Sheriff's Office now has access to information from other county agencies it is investigating, such as the Superior Court. State appellate courts have rebuffed Arpaio's attempts to obtain privileged court e-mails, which would be accessible through the system. Superior Court Judge Joseph Heilman has scheduled a hearing for today regarding the restraining order.

Libertarians Are Used to Bad Choices, but...

... a debate between Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Al Sharpton certainly leaves me without a side to cheer for.