Border-ing on the Surreal…

Here in Arizona, we have become the center of a political tornado over the past couple of weeks, thanks to the passing of SB 1070. This law says that when police come into contact with people, they must make “a reasonable attempt…to determine the immigration status of the person,” where “reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States.” Fairly innocuous, really. Not that you could tell by the reactions of some, who have reacted to the bill with hysterical exaggeration, bordering on the offensive.


For instance, the cartoon to the right, which drew a sharp rebuke from the Anti-Defamation League. “We are seeing these offensive and inappropriate Nazi and Holocaust comparisons come to the fore in the public debate once again… There is no comparison between the situation facing immigrants, legal or illegal, in Arizona and what happened in the Holocaust.” Not that this stopped Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane from shrieking much the same idiotic nonsense, telling Reuters Television:

“Nobody but the Nazis ever asked anybody for their papers. Walking down the street, a cop can come up to you and say ‘May I see your papers?’ — I think they should be required to ask that question in German if the law sticks around… That’s more shocking and egregious than anything we’ve ever done on the show.”

Insert picture of a quizzical owl here. O RLY? Apparently, as well as McFarlane’s woeful ignorance of history, it seems he has never flown, rented a car or even bought a beer, because all of those would require as much, if not more, showing of ze paperz than the new law, which explicitly says that an Arizona driving license is all that anyone needs to show. As for his last statement, I was watching an episode of Family Guy this week with this exchange:
Lois Griffin: “Peter, you got me a card, ‘I’m sorry for selling our daughter.'”
Peter Griffin: “Do you know how hard it was to find one of those in English?”
Hard to believe the man concerned is sensitive about “racial profiling.”


That seems to be the main thrust of opposition; that the bill would open the door to police stopping someone based on the colour of their skin. However, the bill explicitly prohibits this, saying officers “may not consider race, color or national origin”. Now, admittedly, as originally written, was certainly badly-constructed: it could have required police to question, for example, a rape victim about her immigration status. Frankly, I’m a bit disturbed it made its way through the legislature without these obvious holes being spotted. But they were quickly addressed when pointed out.

Yet, the misinformation goes on, to a degree that simple ignorance no longer seems plausible – this feels more likely deliberate deceit, to stir up misplaced anger. Witness the Huffington Post saying, “Arizona has a new immigration law that requires police officers to detain anyone who “looks like” an illegal immigrant and fails to produce proof of American citizenship.” That’s factually wrong on just about every level – beyond “Arizona has a new immigration law” – and gives some sad idea of the tone of the debate. Proponents of the bill are all racists; opponents all illegal-lovers. Even the US Attorney General, who had been sharply-critical, admitted, “I have not read it.”

But is the new law necessary? It’s the product of long years of growing frustration in Arizona over the federal government’s failure to act regarding the problem of illegal immigration. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have done anything to fix it over the past 20 years: one in bed with big-business, who enjoy the flow of cheap, non-unionized labour into the country, the other with no desire to alienate a fast-growing ethnic group who has traditionally been rock-solid support for them. Self-interest rules the day, regardless of the cost to the country.

Certainly, about the only thing all sides agree on is that immigration reform is desperately needed. However, it seems pointless to start passing any new laws, when we are completely incapable of enforcing the existing ones. And that, basically, is what SB 1070 is trying to do. Very little of what is included, is not already part of federal law: however, what it does, is require state law officers to get involved in immigration enforcement, when typically, they have largely turned a blind eye to it. It’s important, because at this point, immigration is something where almost all the work is done at or near the points of entry.

While there’s a lot of talk about “securing the borders,” almost half of all illegals entered the country by legal means – they just don’t go home after their visa ran out, for instance. The odds of them then being caught, due to the current lax approach to the law, is very slim. Once you reach a major city, you’re more or less home free. That’s the reality of the current policy, and any “reform” must certainly address what is otherwise a major flaw. I’m all for a better process to emigrate to the US – god knows, it took us far too much time, money and effort to get me a Green Card – but those who bypassed the law and waltzed across from Nogales on a tourist visa, never to return, can not be allowed to jump the queue. Basic principles of fairness should prohibit that.

Polls have consistently shown a majority of Americans, not just those in Arizona, support the new law, and it has been eagerly seized upon by Republicans as a potential tool against the Democrats. There will be legal challenges, and possibly also a ballot measure to overturn it, and that’s how it should be in a democracy. But I think, in the end, the law will stand, albeit perhaps in an amended form: some people may not like it at all, but it seems to me to be a well-founded piece of legislation, stemming from a genuine societal need. At the very least, even if it falls, it will have focused the federal administration on a topic which they have basically abandoned for too long, and if it leads them to take appropriate action, the bill will have served its purpose.

Independents’ Day: the other California recall candidates

We are currently feeling rather smug about our neighbour to the West. While we in Arizona may have made some rather bad choices for our Governor (Fyfe Symington, forced to resign after being convicted of fraud – though eventually pardoned by Bill Clinton on his way out), we’ve never actually got rid of one mid-term. We were going to have a vote whether or not to dump Evan Meacham in 1988, for his misuse of state money and for cancelling Martin Luther King Day. But he was impeached before the election, avoiding the entertaining circus seen over the past couple of months in California.

You already know that Arnie won. You might also know about some of the other high-profile fringe candidates, such as Larry Flynt or Gary Coleman (probably the first time in decades Coleman and “high-profile” have appeared in the same sentence). But what about the fringe-of-the-fringe, citizens who gathered the requisite 65 signatures and $3,500 filing fee, but didn’t have so much fame or infamy already backing their campaign?

In the interests of a well-informed electorate (and a well-amused one), we at Trash City filtered our way through them, and bring you our favourites. Because of space, and an unwillingness to spend the rest of October working on this, we’ve discounted the Republican and Democratic candidates. Though not without some regret, given quotes such as “single adults are the Rodney Dangerfields of our society” (Rich Gosse), a voter statement that reads, in full, “I breathe” (Kevin Richter), or “former party girl turned Republican” candidate Reva Renee Renz, whose blog has some of the most entertaining pieces on the election I’ve read.

Equally, not every candidate running outside an established party, on an Independent ticket, was entertaining, amusing, or even interesting:

Jerry Kunzman
Bob McClain
Jack Grisham
Sara Ann Hanlon
Brian Tracy

Enough said, despite Mr. Grisham’s resemblance to Michael Madsen.

However, while some chose to decry the election – “a media circus with 135 clowns” – I found it a case-study of true democracy in action. Lack of finance should never be a bar to achieving representation, and the sheer number of alternative voices shows a deep dissatisfaction with the established system. Discounting the ‘official’ Democrat and two Republicans, the other 132 candidates totalled almost half a million votes. In these days of ever more homogenized news, I find this comforting – and to every one of those 132, I tip my hat.

#9 (10,949 votes) – George Schwartzman
“Although some attribute my success in part to my ballot position and somewhat similar name association with Arnold Schwarzenegger, be assured this was not the case.” Yeah, whatever. Perhaps part of his surprisingly good showing was because one of the main planks of his campaign was “the need to prohibit handheld cel phone usage when driving”. He’d certainly get my support there.

#10 (10,114) – Mary Carey
Following in the wake of Cicciolina, while Arnie’s sexual hijinks hampered his campaign, you know exactly what you’re getting with the star of New Wave Hookers 7. Contribute $5,000 and you can have a date with Mary, who supports legalizing ferrets. What they should be legal for, she doesn’t say. She would also create a ‘Porn for Pistols’ scheme to get handguns off the street, and tax breast implants.

#13 (5,915) – John Christopher Burton
Yes, they have Socialists in America. Just not very many of them. Featuring a bilingual website which is the Internet equivalent of horse tranquilizer, Burton is a civil-rights attorney, who “has specialized in defending victims of police abuse and discrimination”. Clearly going for the law and order vote then. His worthiness is probably exceeded solely by his dullness, which is so exceptional as to be interesting in itself…

#16 (4,864) – Gallagher
Only in America would celebrity status be granted to a man whose act consists, in the main, of smashing watermelons with a sledgehammer. Undaunted by his failure to make Governor, Gallagher – who like Sting, Prince and Satan, prefers to be known by only one name – is now preparing to run for President in 2004. Is probably more credible than most Democratic candidates.

#28 (2,262) – Angelyne
Also in the one-name group, is this Hollywood billboard queen, famous for…er, being famous. Perhaps the most imaginative proposal for dealing with the $38 billion deficit: “A room will be decorated in the Capitol building, for anyone who wishes to spend the night and get a personal tour of the building hosted by Angelyne, for the amount of $10,000.” Which would also get you two dates with Mary Carey. [18 years later, Angelyne also took part in the 2021 recall election, and did rather better, getting 26,444 votes, to finish 18th, as the top independent candidate!]

#33, #41, and #47 (2,007, 1,703 and 1,494) – Ned Roscoe, Ken Hamidi and John J. Hickey
One pleasing thing about the US system is you don’t need approval from a party to run as their candidate. Hence, there are no less than three Libertarians – they’re the group I’m probably most aligned with, whose basic concept is summed up in the quote, “the government that governs least, governs best.” Together, they’d have passed Gallagher for #16, though Roscoe seems mostly concerned about the rights of smokers to kill themselves (and anyone else within breathing room) – I’m sure this is in no way connected to his day job as a cigarette retailer…

#49 (1,454) – C.T.Weber
The candidate of the Peace and Freedom Party which is one of those ‘only in California’ organizations: “a multi-tendency socialist and feminist political party”. Doesn’t sound like the sort of party I’d want to go to. Also describes itself as “the only Socialist alternative”; John Christopher Burton (see above) might want to argue with them about that. Albeit in a peaceful and free way, of course.

#54 (1,288) – B.E.Smith
You’ll notice the lack of a link for this one. That’s because he was one of the very few candidates without an Internet site. Thrown into the 48-page voter’s information guide, we find Smith’s voter statement beginning, “I spent two years in federal prison because I grew medical marijuana for myself and others” – which probably explains both his lack of a website, and his photo (right). He promised to pardon everyone in prison for similar crimes, and if elected, would have refused a salary. But would probably accept compensation in Snickers bars.

#60 and #63 (1,121 and 1,029) – Iris Adam and Darin Price
Like the Libertarians, for some reason, there was more than one candidate from the Natural Law Party, thereby splitting the votes of those who like the idea of “yogic flying” [Somewhere at TC Towers, I still have a videotape of a most amusing Natural Law Party Political Broadcast] I think Adam was the official candidate, and if their votes were combined, they’d have placed in the top thirty. Guess even meditation can’t save a political party from discontented splinter groups.

#62 (1,080) – Trek Thunder Kelly
Voter statement in full: “Please vote for me, thus breaking the Seventh Seal and incurring Armageddon. I will legalize drugs, gambling and prostitution so they may be taxed and regulated; the funds derived would subsidize the deficit, education and the environment. I believe in peaceful resolution backed by a strong military; I don’t care who you marry or have sex with.” Wears only blue. Claims to sleep with socks on his hands, and only eat steaks and tacos. Candidature largely appears to be some kind of bizarre performance art.

#68 (927) – Diane Templin
No election would be complete without a religious fruitcake, and with comments like “May the Lord give you the wisdom of Solomon as you vote”, Diane is well qualified. Standing on behalf of the Independent Party (which seems like a contradiction to me, right up there with an Anarchist Party), who regard the census as an invasion of privacy. And probably a tool of Satan, as well.

#74 (734) – Kurt E. (Tachikaze) Rightmyer
A 39-year old who lists his profession as “Middleweight Sumo Wrestler.” Therefore, you will find no snide remarks, sarcastic comments or jokey asides about his candidature here. At least, not until the San Andreas Fault shifts, California is no longer connected to us here in Arizona, and we own Pacific beachfront property.

#115 (374) – Jeff Rainforth
The Reform Party was once viewed as the great hope for a third party in America, after Ross Perot ran for President in 1992, and got 19% of the vote. Ah, how the once-mighty have fallen – going on Jeff’s performance, by approximately 18.99%. Do like the ‘Politicians Suck’ shirt available through his site, though the message is somewhat muted by having ‘Rainforth for Governor’ emblazoned on the other side.

#135 (172) – Todd Richard Lewis
Lewis was one of the players in Bumfights, Vol. 1, where he ran around tying up the homeless while commentating in a fake Aussie accent. “The people of California will rise up in a grass roots campaign supporting The Bumhunter’s run for Governor and take back what’s owed to them – their dreams.” Dream on, Bumhunter: you finished last. Not just among independent candidates, but dead last. And deservedly so.