By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Get this! No less than Leland "Extinguish My Butt" Fairbanks, president of Arizonans Concerned About Smoking -- and a guy who can talk the leg off a chair about the evils of cancer sticks -- agrees with this beaky pundit that rat-finking is bad.
"I don't go for this snitching stuff," Fairbanks hollered this way. "It's a civil rights thing. I'm more for standing up for the insecure employee -- the lounge singer, the bartender, the table-clearer-offer -- who doesn't dare complain about smoke in the workplace. But what are we going to do here, hide behind trees in the park, looking for someone we can call the cops on because they're smoking?"
Yes, and right away, too, if nut-box negotiator Bill "I'd Rather Fight Than Switch" Pfeifer has anything to say about it.
Pfeifer is president and CEO of the American Lung Association of Arizona and the chair of Smoke Free Arizona, which The Bird is sad to report isn't an organization devoted to handing out complimentary bags of marijuana to state residents.
"Freedom?!" Pfeifer screeched to The Bird. "How about the freedom to breathe clean air that doesn't cause disease or death?! Fifty-two thousand people die each year from secondhand smoke, according to studies by the American Lung Association!"
But what about what experts like Robert "I'd Walk a Mile for a Camel" Levy, senior fellow for constitutional studies at the Cato Institute, have to say on the subject?
"In 1998, the World Health Organization confirmed that there is no association between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and lung cancer," Levy wrote. And a more-recent study published in the British Medical Journal reports that "passive smoke had no significant connection with heart disease or lung cancer death at any level of exposure at any time."
Now, about that property-rights argument, Mr. Pfeifer?
"Protecting the health and safety of the majority of the community comes first and foremost," he said (long sigh). "We can't do that alone; we need input from the people we're trying to protect."
Translated, this means he needs anti-smoking rat-finks to drop a dime to him so he can get cases made against offending establishments.
The Bird would like to suggest its own initiative, one in which it's legal to smoke loudmouth CEOs who want to stamp out the principles of a free society. Now, before all you pfriends of Pfeifer get your tail-feathers all ruffled, be assured that the taloned tweeter means this in the nicest possible way.
Over the noisy keening, The Bird hears that Shields is busy battling an ambulance war so fraught with fiery infighting and favoritism that it's a wonder no one's spontaneously combusted over it. But mostly he's just crying because New Timeswriter Sarah Fenske revealed him for what he is in a recent cover story ("Ambulance Chasers," October 27).
Seems that Southwest Ambulance, the company that currently manages service in most Maricopa County suburbs, is organized under Shields' United Phoenix Fire Fighters. But it's facing stiff competition in several local cities from Professional Medical Transport, a non-union company run by Pat "Never Hose Me" Cantelme, a predecessor of Shields' as president of the local firefighters' union and (huzzah!) Shields' close friend.
Did The Bird mention that Shields is a labor union president and Cantelme's company is non-union? Right, it did. Never mind.
Could this be why Shields, as detailed in Fenske's New Times opus, has refused to throw his union's muscle behind the ambulance workers at Southwest, even though these poor slobs are fellow members of the International Association of Fire Fighters?
"What," Shields seems to be saying, "risk my friendship just to back union guys? Fugedaboudit!"
After New Times wrote about Shields' duplicitous ways, disgruntled members of our local fire brigade couldn't call this feathered fiend fast enough -- anonymously, of course. (The hell with making chili and swapping hilarious burning-building jokes; the new pastime for fireman is informing on Benedict Shields.)
One of Shields' own told The Bird, "We're mad at Billy for not stepping up and for not telling Pat, 'You can't do this!' He's letting Pat come in and take union jobs."
Another city employee forwarded The Bird an interoffice e-mail sent by Shields to the entire Phoenix Fire Department indicating that he's feeling the heat. Big time!
"The recent New Times article has caused much concern for all of us," Shields whined in his for-your-eyes-only electronic missive. "I want to tell you that the reporter was loaded for a story against our union and Pat Cantelme, our former president. She twisted many of my comments to fit her purpose, and used information selectively to smear Pat. She tried to imply that all of our union officers have company interests. She might as well be on the payroll of Pat's competitors."
Blah, blah, blah, Billy. The Bird guesses that in the seedy ambulance-contract world you inhabit -- a planet that would make disappeared Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa proud -- it must seem that a journalist's got to be on some enemy's payroll if she writes the truth and makes you and yours look like scumbags.