SB1070 Revisited: One Year Later

The challenge goes on...

Memorial Day weekend last year was marked by the anti-SB1070 law protest against the law passed by the Arizona State Legislature and signed by Governor Jan Brewer that took a strong stance against illegal immigration from Mexico. What has happened since then?

According to a study by BBVA Bancomer Research published in November 2010 there are 300,000 less Hispanics in Arizona since the law went into effect. Also the amount of money transferred from Arizona to Mexico is substantially reduced. Since then it is very likely many more have left and the flow of money out has also depreciated. Anecdotally in the central Phoenix area where I live there are far fewer people of Mexican descent evident than a year ago and relationships are changed. It is difficult to quantify how communication is different but interactions between Whites, Blacks (who are allied on this issue) and Hispanics are modified now, not necessarily hostile or suspicious but definitely cautious. This is in everyday interactions ranging from personal to work to public places.

From a legal perspective US District Court Judge Susan Bolton issued an injunction the day before the law was to go into effect stopping major parts of the law. An appeal to the notoriously liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was refused stating that the federal government is likely to be able to establish the law is unconstitutional. In the interim between the two decisions, Obama's US Justice Department sued Arizona to block the law, stomping over the state's rights. This was predictable considering the Statist condition of the United States which is totally against the principles and ideals of America. [See: "This Is Not America | It is now merely the United States..."] Governor Jan Brewer is challenging the 9th Circuit Appeals Court ruling directly to the US Supreme Court, a considerably more conservative body.

Everything has changed but nothing has changed.

On a more practical and realistic level the fact remains that Arizona still has the most porous border of all of the Border States. Although the law caused illegal immigrants from Mexico to become less evident they are still ever present. In actuality the money is now flowing northward in the form of people and drug smuggling and the southern counties have more of a problem than ever. While the counties of Pima and Yuma conveniently choose to ignore the problem, the county directly north of them, Pinal, does not since the situation is now even worse for them.

A recent non-scientific poll by the Arizona Capitol Times asking the question "Should Gov. Jan Brewer use her new authority to call up a volunteer state militia [granted by the State Legislature] to bolster the efforts to stop illegal border crossings" had three choices of answers. The majority response was "Yes. The sooner the better." This is indicative of the overwhelming sense among most White and Black Arizonans that the federal government has done nothing, as promised, to help solve our border problem.

While what I have written may seem that I support SB1070 in totality, let me clarify my position at this juncture. My thought is there is at least one part of the law I specifically do not like and it is the "show me your papers" provision, which smacks right up against the American tradition of our ability to move about freely, which is a constitutional right. There are other provisions I find questionable also. The spirit and intent of the law, to force the federal governments hand out of the states right to defend itself from intrusion, does appeal to my sense of rejecting the unconstitutional encroachment of the federal government. If you question that, study the history of the US since 1913 and the Sixteenth Amendment to discover what is meant by that statement.

Federal Government now is Unconstitutional Centralized Government.

I am satisfied that the entire set of "Birther" laws was quashed by the sensibilities of the new State Legislature, rightly slapping the hand of State Senate President Russell Pierce (author of SB1070) and State Senator Ron Gould. The message of the voters and other legislators to them and their ilk was clear. "It's the economy stupid!" The state had achieved what it needed to do and that was challenge the federal government, particularly this administration, on their overreaching into a centralized government which has been entrenching itself in this country for decades. It is now working it's way through the system via our rule of law. This continues in another form, the Medical Marijuana Act passed by Arizona voters. Now the Obama Administration and Justice Department are threatening to sue state employees who engage in issuing licenses and pursue individuals for lawfully conducting business in what citizens clearly stated they wanted through a legal election process.

What this all really boils down to is that Arizona is an active microcosm of sentiment that is present all across this country. We represent the macrocosm attitudes and views that are growing across this nation that the government and major political parties are out of control. While SB1070 has not yet accomplished solving our illegal border crossing issue, it has set the stage for a showdown against the US Federal Government and the embedded Political Class that reinforces it. The challenge is far from over.



The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

The first change takes place in your mind...

Gil Scott-Heron died yesterday and his spoken word poetry pioneered political rap and influenced hip-hop music although he was somewhat critical of hip hop artists. He was quoted in the nineties:

"They need to study music. I played in several bands before I began my career as a poet. There's a big difference between putting words over some music and blending those same words into music. There's not a lot of humor. They use a lot of slang and colloquialisms and you don't really see inside the person. Instead, you just get a lot of posturing." [italics mine]

One of my favorite GSH lines is the famous one from "Let Me See Your I.D."

"The first time I heard there was trouble in the Middle East, I thought they were talking about Pittsburgh."

It appeals to me since it reminds me of how self-centered many Americans are regarding the rest of the world in the sense the world begins, ends and revolves around the United States.

In his earlier years he was aware of and foreshadowed the inevitable crash of our consumer culture. One of the most important concepts is his statement in an interview in the nineties with Scott Blumberg "The first change that takes place is in your mind, you have to change your mind before you change the way you live and the way you move."

Like all great artists, his work stands the test of time and is both prescient and relevant today. In that same interview he referred to how Black Americans have been "the only real die-hard Americans here because we're the only ones who carried the process through the process, that everyone else has skipped stages, we're the only ones who marched, carried the Bible, carried the flag, were the ones who tried to go through the courts and being born American didn't seem to matter because we were born American but we had to fight for what we were looking for..."

In his latest work in 2010 "I'm New Here" he refers to coming full circle and is classic in it's beautiful lyricism and simplicity of a solo guitarist as accompanist.


Arizona Landscape

Indian School reflections...


We Have Lost Nothing

We are gaining something new...

Our society has lost something that is making many people feel displaced. It is causing a lot of individuals to go through the stages of grief, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and for the healthiest of us...Acceptance. Everyone at different times and each in his or her own way. Those who have arrived at acceptance understand that we haven't lost anything of value at all. What we recognize is that we have been forever dispossessed of social norms that no longer have validity and outlived their purpose. There is no turning back to return to the old ways no matter how many attempts are made to resuscitate what once was.

What seems to appear to underlie this divestment is the economic crisis and the awareness of the ineffectiveness of the political class. It is the trigger but not the bullet. The cartridge that was fired held shotgun ammo that blasted into little pieces disrupting the entire order of life as we knew it. The economics and politics of our social disorder are the symptoms of the wound and not origination of it. Technology and science are. The paradox is these two fields of endeavor that have advanced so far in recent history are also agents of change bringing us back to a more natural way of living. The most notable of this is the internet allowing people to be freed from cubicle land and constraints of traditional employment to create a new way of living.

Not everyone has arrived at this point of thinking yet, just as the Age of Enlightenment occurred over a number of years, so will this magnificent cultural shift. Some people may languish in the old sphere and possibly never arrive in the new one. This is the source of the impression of no longer being in the corral but instead on the wide open range, the polar opposite of the way we have been trained to become one of the posse. The drift of being untethered is bewildering in a world when the exact opposite has been highly valued and what was stressed we should strive for. This is the seemingly odd juxtaposition of technology and science versus natural thinking and living. A Global Positioning System device cannot guide us to a mental state of mind, only human intelligence and intuition can do that. Hence the sense of dislocation.

What will separate us in society is how we grasp this concept, brave the barely marked trail and forge ahead in contemporary covered wagons. Those that cling to the old will find their grip slipping, making themselves frustrated and angry. Each person has to arrive at their destination in their own caravan. We can help others that instinctively seek it but there is little to do for those that don't.


Self Portrait

Opaque and Oblique...

Photo shot with Droid X using negative effect and minimal cropping.


Human Touch

On being personable in a detached world...

We are people starving for attention in a world of automated tellers, touchscreen ordering and voice response systems. Personal attention is a two way street. That person behind the counter who robotically rings up your purchase needs attention as much as you do. We are human and our spirit is what separates us from the animal kingdom.

It is astounding how many people are operating out of fear and anxiety. Those two emotions are reflected in our interactions with each other in urban areas and small cities. A lot of people act as if they don't care in this mixed up, muddied era of economic downturn, political divisiveness and social disruption. Actually they're just playing it safe. People have been trained to publicly be cool, calm and detached and mimic a phony customer service model that is based on whatever acronym some consultant came up with. Attempting to avoid offending anyone has made many defensive and cold towards others.

In my industry I work with people who suffer test anxiety since their credentialing and livelihood depends on a high stakes test. Experience has taught me that acknowledging it in some way from the beginning returns a heartfelt "thank you" afterwards. One way I do this is just prior to entering the test room I will tell someone to "take a deep breath, breathe in the good air, exhale the bad air and think success." There is nothing original in that statement but it gets a positive response in test takers ranging from burly firefighters to aggressive stock brokers to aloof doctors.

At the interchange of human interaction people seem to be dispassionate but underneath they are not. Inside may be a raging bull or a soft-hearted bear that fears what others might think or only wants to be recognized as a person. Take a moment to recognize someone's fear or anxiety by doing or saying something that acknowledges those emotions indirectly by being personable. My bet is that you will discover the most detached person will light up and respond.


The Economy is Tanking Again

Don't let it sink you...

Quotable President Harry Truman said "It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose your own." People can quibble all day what this economic era is called but it won't really have its own name until it's written past history. Recession, Depression, Disruption, take your pick, it's irrelevant in the here and now. What the average person really knows is for most people things aren't getting much better. For many it's taking a turn for the worse while some are pulling out of it and at least beginning to break even. Very few people are untouched although there are a some who doing well.

It is clear that generally for most people in Arizona the economy is not improving much, if at all. The optimistic projection of economists at the WP Carey School of Business of ASU is that it will be at least three years before we even begin to see a turnaround in our economy. Real people and businesses know better. We've been particularly hard hit by the real estate and mortgage foreclosure tsunami, with the first quarter results of this year being much more dismal than anticipated, both on the real estate sales and foreclosure fronts. Unemployment is technically just below the national average but that does not include people who have given up looking for work and the underemployed. Although there are jobs listed, they are too few for the number of people applying for them and most people are not qualified for these jobs and they don't pay very well. We have lost more quality jobs than we have gained in all jobs. Gas and food prices are going higher and people are running out of savings and credit while inflation for necessary items is increasing.

The danger seems to be systemic unemployment and that affects income which in turn affects business and tax revenue. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out. The real danger to those who are long term unemployed or underemployed is not just losing skills but the effect it can have on the mind. This has been called a "man-cession" since unemployment has statistically hit men harder during this economic downturn unlike in the past. Since men still tend to identify themselves (and increasingly women) in terms of the work they do and associate it with their self-worth, the hazard of widespread psychological and subsequent social problems is pretty high. 

That is a trapdoor.

As difficult as it might seem with little money and limited resources it is critical to stay physically occupied and mentally challenged to avoid conjoining psychological depression with an economic one. I see this as a looming social problem for the country as a whole. That should serve as warning to anyone that it is a state of mind to avoid. Large numbers of people may fall into this trap but that doesn't mean you have to. The English idiom "where there's a will, there's a way" applies here. If we are determined not to fall into a trap and do something about our situation, then we can always find the means and approach to do it.

The challenge then is for people who do not want to become stagnant, depressed or lose skills to figure out how to rise above the crowd and do something constructive with the time involuntarily thrust into their hands. Every person is different therefore personal solutions are not the same. My belief is that anything you can do during this time period to occupy your body and mind will pay off in the long term. Anything you do from tutoring what you know to learning more about something you don't know will lead to possibilities. Standing still will not. The smart person will distinguish themselves from the masses that do nothing by becoming occupied with meaningful activities.

Eventually this economic downturn, whatever it is named, will end. When it does those that did nothing will continue to do nothing and those that did something will be doing something better than before. The new normal will become real normal and living will get much better. It always does, it is part of the human condition. The important thing to understand is this economic interim will become past history and when it does the future will become the present. You will be glad you prepared for down the line when it arrives, since you did not give up during this difficult time now, no matter what it ends up being called.


Moving Forward

Is the only real option...

Some days the best thing to do is put one foot in front of the other and keep going. They may be slow steps and it's alright to pause for rest but stopping is not a good choice. You risk never getting going again and that is the beginning of the end of progress. Progress is the engine that keeps us moving, idling gives us a brief respite but stopping is the end of the road.

Sometimes it feels as if every inch of progress is dearly bought but the price of losing ground makes the cost of even advancing slowly worth it in the long haul. It is difficult to maintain perspective in times when it seems life is a chore or you own an empty feeling for some unknown reason. At those times know that you are not alone in feeling that way, even though it is difficult to imagine when you're on that clock.

These thoughts may seem like bromides but those concepts have kept many people going and overcoming sluggish times for centuries. It doesn't matter how they're phrased, the principles are the same. Everyone experiences a range of emotions and it is natural to at times not feel so great about life. It's at those times you test your mettle and grow even stronger.

Surround yourself with people who respect who and what you are now and not what you may have been. Mutual help is as American a value as self reliance and the very act of talking to someone who understands in itself helps you to keep going forward. Find someone who understands you as well as you understand them and value that relationship and person.

The act of moving forward in itself leads to momentum of motion, accelerating the sense of going nowhere to going somewhere.


bin Laden Really is Dead

This is not a topic I intended to write about...

Somehow I feel I must write about this topic although it is really not where I want to go, especially lately, with this blog. I am officially burned out on economics, politics and social problems since they appear to be flat lined at best or getting worse. At this point I think my time, especially creatively, is better spent staying positive and motivating others to rise above and keep going no matter the odds.

However, I cannot ignore the issue of Osama bin Laden's death, the rise of conspiracy theories and the need for people to see pictures, as well as the emotions it is evoking in those directly affected by the events of 9-11-2001. I believe that Osama bin Laden is dead because I have more trust in the US military, their intelligence and capabilities and the CIA (a scary proposition to some I realize) than I do President Obama. I have every good reason to believe our military for reasons, not to be coy, that (even to prove my point) I cannot share. I believe they did carry out the mission, assassinated bin Laden and buried him at sea, in Davey Jone's Locker. The guy who tweeted it inadvertently, Sohaib Athar (@ReallyVirtual), corroborates it to a believable degree and I don't think the US Government or anyone can make people like him up.

What the conspiracy stories and theories are really telling us is about the incompetence of President Obama and his staff, the incapacity to make a sound decision, stick to it, keep a story straight and be honest with the American people. The sheer inability of Obama and his "people" to be consistent indicates their ineptitude but we knew that already. There is no point in reviewing all of the inconsistencies throughout his entire term, he's proven that over and over again, so why should this be any different?

I wouldn't mind seeing blood and guts pictures of Osama bin Laden myself as awful as that sounds. If a reader knew how much 9-11 disrupted my life personally in a very big way then they would understand. Something better in my nature tells me otherwise though.

There is one thing I don't think a lot of the American and European people have thought about. We have been on the verge of a Third World War for almost a year now, if not since 9-11-2001. The killing of bin Laden is probably the equivalent of the shooting of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. Worse, this war unlike any previous wars has no real geographic boundaries making it a brand new game of combat. It is a war between Islamic extremist terrorists in a host of countries, who as nation-states may not necessarily be at war with the western world. It is also occurring after the "Arab Spring" of uprisings against oppressive regimes that in many respects refuted his terrorist machinations and making for a difficult summer in the Arab and Persian Muslim world.

Obama probably ought to have released some clear evidence of his death but it would only make things worse now. Doing so would probably inflame some terrorists but by their nature they are already agitated fanatics. We already know from this raid that al Qaeda was planning to attack the US rail network. This event has also already broadened a war on three fronts, Afghanistan, Libya and Pakistan and is likely to plunge the world into deeper global conflict. It's already begun; we're being shielded from it by our government and media, which is worse than releasing photos of a dead man. If there is a conspiracy, that is likely the real one.

My hope, as awful as this is to consider, is that we will not be solving our unemployment problem by working in munitions factories. We need to beware of "foreign entanglements" and engage in a policy of non-interventionism; otherwise we will truly find ourselves involved in a Third World War. More importantly, we must counter conspiracy theorists, despite the inept handling of bin Laden's assassination by the Obama administration. Now, more than ever we need to individually remain focused on maintaining ourselves in a healthy frame of mind, through self-reliance, mutual help and optimism, about our abilities to rise above any difficulties we are encountering. Our time is better spent improving our minds and well-being than focusing on spooks and conspiracies to overcome the barriers we are facing economically and socially in this country.


Government Intervention

Saved the banks and big business from Depression...

Causing a Depression among the average person.

We are now into the fourth year since the real estate bubble crashed in 2007 causing the Federal government to intervene and "save" the financial institutions that were "too big to fail." The result has been that the major banks and financial institutions and Wall Street are not feeling the effects of the damage they originally caused but the average person is. Unemployment is still too high, the inflation caused by the printing of money and government debt are causing hardship in the general population but not among those in the financial world. The end result is not that the taxpayer is going to be overly burdened but that our government is technically insolvent and could quite possibly go bankrupt.

The scandal of this is that so far they have gotten away with it. It is my belief that the bad news is this will lead to the decline of our currency and an inevitable market crash. The good news is it will cause us as a people to do something to rid ourselves of the political and business class that colluded to put us in this position. We have been hijacked by the very people we entrusted with our government by electing people not acting in our best interests. This specifically applies to the Federal government, meaning the Congress and the President of the United States. It is useless to argue whether it "was Bush's fault" or "Obama is killing our country." The fact is that this started decades ago, exacerbated by the second Clinton term, during both of Bush's terms and continued by Obama. One could argue to go back further but our current condition is the result of efforts since the '92-'93 recession in Clinton's term.

We are here now and we must restore ourselves.

Regardless of how we got here, we are here now and it is up to us, the American people as engaged citizens and voters, to resolve the situation. This will not be easy as people entrenched in power neither give up easily and have the resources to fight back in ways too evil to consider in this discussion. The real truth is we are more likely to suffer an economic collapse before we can reasonably and responsibly resolve the situation by political means. How this will play out cannot be said for certain but the people responsible for getting us here are not going to stop until there is economic fallout of epic proportions that will end in the repudiation of debt.

The bottom line is that most Americans are in stressful economic conditions while the perpetrators are not feeling the effects of what they've done since they solved their immediate problem by colluding to keep printing money until it is worthless. It will take one economic domino for the rest of it to fall and when it does they will feel the effects. That is when we need to be concerned with their reaction and intentions.

We still have a chance to restore our country to "we the people."

In the mean time the best that the average forgotten man can do is maintain the best they can and remain as optimistic as possible and above all be prepared to fight back. What fighting back means is an open question but I do not believe with our history, form of government and the US Constitution, that means the government will be allowed or even be able to turn on it's own people. What it does mean is that, "we the people," must take back our government and control over our elected officials. That may sound implausible, corny or absurd to some people but to many of us it does not. One thing Americans have inherent in their character is once a movement starts going in a direction it cannot be stopped.

I still believe that it is not beyond the abilities of the citizenry to restore our country to reasonable values and the core beliefs of what America is about and return to what was intended by the Founding Fathers in the US Constitution. One thing is certain, divisiveness among the people will grow before resolution, but at a certain point the reasonable natural American character will rise above and return our country back to its core values. I don't believe this is false assumption, just as the country was in turmoil after the Civil War and during the turbulence of the nineteen-sixties, in the long term decent American people prevail and the challenge of differences and come together to overcome indecent leadership that has failed us.


Anything Can Happen

And always does when you least expect it...

Osam bin Laden is dead.

Just as many Americans were pausing to wonder what has been going on in our country and how we were going to dig ourselves out of the economic hole we've created, something happens that changes the course of history. Ten long years after the events of September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden is dead, killed by us and we are certain since we have his body. It is the symbolic end of an era when the American psyche, consciously or otherwise, doubted itself and ability to capture a criminal who was the mastermind of a tragic event. His death cannot be underestimated. Carried along with our doubt was a lot of other baggage about the American Spirit and ability to rise above and be...well, American. The impact of this event should cause us to reassure ourselves that we are capable of anything we set our minds to.

His death will do little for the economic predicament we find ourselves in but should reinforce our sense of being able to resolve it. The real estate/mortgage problem, currency crisis, unemployment and low GDP and productivity among other issues aren't going away. What this should do is restore Americans faith in themselves to rise above and in the long term eventually overcome any obstacle. Over the next few days and weeks much discussion will go on and it is certain the political class will have a field day regarding Bush and Obama and who was able to capture and kill Osama bin Laden. The people who thrive on the fear of terrorism for a living will continue to hyper warn us, in a sense they're reminiscent of anti-communists when the Cold War was over. Terrorism is still a threat and we need to remain vigilant, but what we need to learn from this is that fear mongering is not the best weapon, that believing in our own power to defeat evil is. When all the noise dies down is when the truth will come out and the result will be that everyday Americans will have renewed faith in our ability to restore ourselves to the country we should be.

The oddity of the situation is that the attacks of 9-11 were intended to destroy the financial capital of the world and America's preeminence in the global economy. In some measure it did so indirectly, although it didn't collapse our markets immediately, in the long view in many ways it did. We should have taken more notice at the time of the message that was being sent, a message not necessarily from Islamic terrorists but a note to ourselves. We ignored it after the sentimental pop and country songs and tributes ran their course and we went headlong into consuming everything in sight. We pumped up our economy to feel good and did very little reflection on what had happened and how it could. The time for blame and recriminations about who did and who didn't do what is over, now is the time to revive the American Spirit and undertake the long hard road back to economic health.