It's like a scene out of the classic Western series Gunsmoke, with Marshal Matt Dillon facing off against some ornery outlaw in the streets of Dodge City. To one side, in a white hat and silver star, is courageous Congressman Jeff Flake from AZ's Sixth Congressional District, a proponent of comprehensive, humane immigration reform. To the other is bullet-headed bigot, state Representative Russell "White Pride" Pearce, a villainous hombre in a black hat who's infamous for forwarding supremacist e-mails to followers and advocating a return to Dwight D. Eisenhower's racist Operation Wetback.
Both rep Mesa (among other areas), and both are Mormons. But Arizona ain't big enough for both of 'em, partner. Three guesses whose corpse this carnivorous cormorant wants to gnaw once the fightin' is done? If you're stumped like Rose McGowan's right leg in Grindhouse, check The Bird's earlier column on Pearce ("Mesa Muttonhead," October 19, 2006) outing his prejudiced ways.
Pearce is meaner than Ian McShanes character, Al Swearengen, in HBO's revisionist Western drama Deadwood, though not nearly as smart. Shoot, the Mesa moron's nearly as dumb as peckerwood Slim Pickens Taggart in Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles! The varmint's determined to drive illegal aliens south of the border, no matter how peaceful and law-abidin' they may be.
To this end, Pearce's teamed up with Chris Simcox, a.k.a. "The Little Prince," leader of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and Don Goldwater, the mush-mouthed loser nephew of late Senator Barry Goldwater. Their plan? Get two initiatives on the state ballot: one punishing AZ businesses that hire illegals, the other forcing local gendarmes to arrest anyone they figure may be undocumented. Basically, Pearce wants a final solution to illegal immigration, and he doesn't care if he has to wreck the economy, put companies out of business, and herd hundreds of thousands of souls out of AZ like cattle.
But while Pearce appeals to the worst in Arizona and in his religion, Flake appeals to what Abraham Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. The 44-year-old, Libertarian-minded Republican has been profiled by 60 Minutes for his idealistic battles against pork-barrel spending in the U.S. House. And he's not one to shy away from confronting Pearce and his ignominious ilk with a bill he calls STRIVE: Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act of 2007.
STRIVE's an attempt at a compromise between the two sides on the issue. It provides for beefed-up security on the border; enhanced enforcement of immigration laws with increased penalties for lawbreakers; the electronic verification of eligibility to work; the creation of worker visas for those filling jobs Americans do not want or take; conditional six-year nonimmigrant visas for those already here before June 1, 2006 (with background checks and fines and fees to be paid); and an arduous pathway to U.S. citizenship, requiring back taxes be paid along with a $1,500 fine, passing medical examinations and exiting and re-entering the United States at a predetermined point of entry during the six years of "conditional nonimmigrant status," a provision referred to as "touchback."
Flake's proposed law, which he's introduced in the House with Illinois Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez, offers a sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration policy with no one interest group getting everything they want. But as good as it looks on paper, this skeptical kestrel wonders, can it pass both houses of Congress?
"We've got the best shot we've had in a long time," the congressman told The Bird via phone from D.C. "The president has been very consistent on this issue. I was at the White House this morning, and he talked about it again. He's committed to comprehensive reform. Then you have Democrat control in the House and the Senate that's more likely than Republican control to get this product through. You have a pretty decent partisan coalition here that wants comprehensive reform."
Flake observed that Republican efforts to blame the Dems for lack of progress on immigration reform backfired. So now, more Republicans are looking for a compromise. Some of the bill's language is similar to the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill from the last Congress. Flake expects the House to begin holding hearings on the legislation in late April or early May and believes the Senate version may come to a vote before the House version.
When this dyspeptic pigeon phoned Pearce's office for a comment on his fellow Republican and Mormon's STRIVE legislation, Pearce relayed an answer through a staffer, stating, "It's an outrageous amnesty program. It will cost the taxpayers billions of dollars above what it's already costing us today."
Flake rejected that amnesty label while chatting with this pollo loco, pointing out, "In 1986, we had an amnesty. We said, 'You get a shortcut to a green card if you've been here illegally.' We're not doing that here. We say, 'You go to the back of the line and you can't adjust your status until everyone who's in the queue works their way through.' "
As far as the cost of the proposal, Flake admits, "There are going to be some real costs. This is not an inexpensive venture. But it's something we simply have to do."
Pearce, of course, wants none of it. He later e-mailed this egret, "We don't need reform, we need enforcement." Pearce wants no compromise, he just wants all the brown ones shipped home to Mexico, pronto!
Flake dismisses that as unlikely to occur: "Most Arizonans, most Americans, know that's not realistic, to deport 12 million people. That's more than twice as many people who live in the state of Arizona."
But Pearce and his allies aren't concerned with what's realistic, moral or practical.
Without the issue of illegal immigration, Minuteman Simcox and his fellow weekend warriors would have to disband for lack of any pussyfoot patrols to go on. And Pearce would have no outlet for his demagoguery, save maybe for beating his dog or drowning stray cats.
That's why Marshal Flake and his posse must face them down and present them with a federal fait accompli they cannot ignore, in much the same way the 1964 Civil Rights Act forced redneck America to respect the rights of African-Americans, and swallow their own prejudice like a big, nasty plug of chewin' tobacco.
Surprised, shocked and saddened. That's the reaction of this flummoxed flamingo to the news that ex-New Times staff writer Joe Watson was popped Friday for allegedly sticking up at least five Valley businesses, including three salons in Scottsdale, hence his newly acquired sobriquet "The Salon Bandit."
Scottsdale detectives arrested Watson at 1:40 p.m. on March 30, doing one of his favorite things playing poker at Casino Arizona. No surprise to this mynah bird there, at least. Watson confided to having a gambling addiction to other New Times scribes before he resigned his position with the paper a year ago. According to the Scottsdale Police Department's flack, Sergeant Mark Clark, Watson admitted his prob to the po-po, too, stating he had committed the robberies to feed his gambling habit. He's being held in the Maricopa County Jail on five counts of armed robbery. A sixth charge is pending. And the cops suspect Watson of robberies in Phoenix and Tempe, as well.
During his New Times tenure, Watson penned what's become one of the most popular NT cover stories ever, the tale of William Windsor, a Phoenix eccentric who wears diapers year 'round and sleeps in a crib the size of a Volkswagen ("Baby Man," June 9, 2005). Watson was well-connected in PHX journalism circles, having worked as an editor for Arizona State University's State Press magazine and newspaper. He also toiled on the East Valley Tribune's sports desk, until famously getting fired for skipping work to attend the World Series, when he had been emphatically warned not to do so by his boss, then-sports editor Slim Smith, who's (ironically) doing four months for extreme DUI.
Watson had a brief stint as editor of the glossy Scottsdale mag 944 and even sat on the board of the Arizona Press Club. Watson had also freelanced under the pseudonym Zachary Best for Phoenix Magazine, where his fiancée, managing editor Ashlea Deahl, still works. Deahl declined comment when contacted for this item. They had been engaged to be wed later this year.
Watson wore a hat as disguise during the robberies and used what may have been a simulated weapon in a paper bag or with a towel over it, police say. Video surveillance footage from one of the robberies was shown on a 10 p.m. newscast. In that footage, he was wearing his beloved Boston Red Sox baseball cap. Someone recognized Joe and dropped a dime. Clark stated that Watson didn't resist arrest at the casino. (Wonder what kind of hand he was holding?)
The Bird knew Watson had been battling an obsession with gambling for years (he once spoke rapturously of the seedy 1998 poker flick Rounders starring Matt Damon and Ed Norton), and he had sunk low in the past because of it. But this beak-bearer had no idea he would go so far. Watson had lately been working at some sort of medical publishing house in P-town. He was upfront about his addiction, but it remained beyond the understanding of most of his friends. Physical addiction to illicit substances, food, or sex this pterodactyl gets. But gambling? That's all in your head, which maybe makes it more dangerous.
Nothing excuses what's been done, but the Taloned One hopes Watson finds a way to turn his life around. As is, it sounds as if he's got material enough to write a novel from the pen. Maybe even a poor man's version of Nelson Algren's The Man With the Golden Arm (about a self-destructive poker dealer in gritty, post-World War II Chicago).
It's not difficult for us to imagine Mayor Phil Gordon in drag, and that was before he moved his 2007 campaign headquarters into a building that was once home to one of the gnarlier tranny bars in the PHX, the 307 Lounge, next to Wayne Rainey's monOrchid gallery, downtown on Roosevelt.
Heck, back in the day, former Partridge Family member Danny Bonaduce famously assaulted a beefy transgendered dude nearby, a tranny who frequented the 307. So, the spot's got the right mojo for a less-than-manly man, and this nasty nighthawk's not even getting into the fact that the word "monorchid" refers to the state of having one testicle.
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Gossip mavens have been enjoying a field day recently with the fact that the former tranny bar was shut down, along with monOrchid, for lack of a certificate of occupancy this following Phil's move into the structure.
"Nobody knew. We didn't know and the property manager didn't know," screeched clueless Gordon flack Tony Motola.
The permit's been restored, but it tickles this rooster's ribs that the mayor's office wasn't aware it needed to play by its own rules and make sure the building was legal before occupying it. If business owners like Matt Pool, who owns the Roosevelt bar and Matt's Big Breakfast have to deal with the city's BS (Matt's Big Hassle," November 30, 2006) the mayor should at least know to check this shit before he moves in.
Oh, the irony! Goober Gordon's re-election effort takes up residency in the arts district to curry favor with those in it, and Goober runs right up against the same red tape that gallery owners and such have been bitching about forever. Why, that's almost as funny as imagining weenie Phil in a dress or as the mayor of the nation's fifth-largest city. Uh, wait a sec. Seems the joke's on Phoenix!