The only thing The Bird hates more than a bag of seeds and stems (see the recent column on bong laws, dude) is a bag of hot air.
Which's why it loves politicians so much. Especially ones who cultivate the appearance of getting all puffed up about the deep injustices brought on by other politicians -- as if bringing on deep injustices isn't something the majority of elected officials do every damn day.
Anyway, The Bird's Big Bag of Hot Air Award this time goes to (drum roll, please!) Democratic congressional candidate Mike Caccioppoli.
See, Caccioppoli joined ranks recently with a pile of state senators who were falling all over themselves to chastise fellow state Senator Jack Harper (R-Surprise) for ragging on former Arizona Democratic Party chairman Jim Pederson's family.
According to these sanctimonious pols, Harper should be drawn and quartered politically for an untoward remark concerning 24-year-old James Robert Pederson's arrest on a "misconduct with weapons" charge and on various drug charges, including possession of narcotics, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia. A story in the, um, always-objective Arizona Republic suggested that Harper could certainly lose his Senate seat in the next election over this. Umm, hmm.
Here's what happened: During a Senate floor session, Harper blabbed that young Pederson's bust "points to a culture of corruption in the Pederson household."
Now, The Bird's had huge respect for Jack Harper lately for bucking the powers that be in the state GOP and insisting on a long-overdue investigation of voting irregularities in the Maricopa County Elections Department (and this feathered fiend's got to think that some of the faux outrage by Republican bigwigs over badmouthing a formidable Democrat has something do with that). But it's got to admit that Harper's remark about the Pederson family shows him for what he is:
A Bible-thumping Republican Neanderthal.
So . . . what else is new? Everybody knew that already. Just because Harper's on the correct side of the elections department issue doesn't mean he's got progressive ideas. And The Bird uses that hippie-dippy term loosely!
This foul fowl's saying about Harper's making his stupid remark: It ain't that big an issue in the real world. It's not like he tried to cover up elections officials' incompetence and/or fraud in our fair state, as did a fellow state senator or three who could be mentioned here.
The list of senators who wanted Harper to get down on his knees and apologize to poor, disabused Jim Pederson is too long to list here. Scottsdale Republican Senator Carolyn Allen was typical of those in her party suddenly worried about the tender feelings of the Pederson family, calling Harper's blurt "totally inappropriate."
Did this extended middle finger mention that Jim Pederson in all likelihood will be the Democratic contender against Republican incumbent Jon Kyl for the U.S. Senate? Well, that's the deal. And Pederson should be sending Harper a check for his services. The Bird's saying, with enemies like Harper, who needs campaign advertising?
As for Kyl, if The Bird were him, it'd advise Allen and other local-yokel GOP morons to shut the fuck up, because all they're doing is generating sympathy for and giving added name recognition to the worthy opponent.
And Kyl to Harper: Thanks for helping me out by stirring up the inmates at the asylum. No, not really!
Which brings us back to Democrat Mike Caccioppoli, the former WABC radio correspondent who lives in Flagstaff and is running for the U.S. House District 1 seat. The points this pesky pelican's making weren't lost on him.
Caccioppoli was out of the gates ahead of the political pack in calling for Harper's head. In his e-mail diatribe to the state's media, Caccioppoli denounced Harper's comments as so much political grandstanding. He squawked the same thing to The Bird in an interview:
"Jack Harper is just using this issue to draw attention to himself. And that's not right!"
In his mass e-mail, Caccioppoli spewed that all Harper's comments were about was making "political hay" for himself.
Now, Mikey knows as well as this winged wonder that Jack Harper's about the last person who was trying to draw attention to himself in this fandango. It's never a good idea when a pol paints a target on himself. This has been attention Jack Harper doesn't need! (By the way, Harper did wind up apologizing to the Pederson family.)
As The Bird's been tweeting here, it's everybody else who's fallen all over him- or herself to slam Harper who's making political hay out of the incident.
Like Mike Caccioppoli, who's got a donkey's chance in an elephant farm of surviving in a race against GOP Congressman Rick Renzi. But he heehawed in protest when The Bird suggested that he cared so much about justice against Harper only to get his name in the paper.
"I'm defending Jim Pederson because he's a great guy," Caccioppoli insisted. "And because Republicans are always pushing this phony high moral ground, and then one of them pulls something like this."
After more woodpecking that there must be some sort of political agenda in play here, Caccioppoli conceded:
"Well, I am facing Rick Renzi in the upcoming election. And Renzi plays dirty. So I'm letting him know that personal attacks like this won't be tolerated by me. This was an incredibly low blow, one that deserves an apology."
He declared that Harper's apology was halfhearted and that the senator from Surprise must really mean it when he says he's sorry! After all, Caccioppoli noted, Harper had to be prodded by Senate President Ken Bennett to offer any apology at all!
Now this avian's got to wonder why Bennett would care so deeply about the enemy's feelings.
Could it be:
A) He was the Senate leader who tried hardest to stop Harper's investigation of the county elections department that has now been taken over by U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton, thereby making a fool of Bennett and Republican County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who also opposed the investigation?
B) Bennett's own son was busted last month for allegedly sodomizing 18 young boys with a broom handle during a stay at sleep-away camp, and he feels sympathy for a fellow father in politics?
Who needs HBO with free entertainment like this?
Actually, when The Bird thinks about it, letter B might be why a lot of pols were screeching bloody murder about Harper. They don't want to get the Bad Parent Award -- that is, be held accountable publicly for failing to turn their kids into model citizens. That voters, most of whom are parents themselves, might sympathize seems lost on the bozos. Right after Broomstickgate broke, the (cough!) always-trustworthy Republic opined that poor Bennett was once-upon-a-time being mentioned as a gubernatorial contender until that apple fell so far from the tree.
Once The Bird got Caccioppoli on the phone, it couldn't shut him up:
"He needs to say, 'I made a big mistake, I was overzealous, I was trying to turn this into something political,'" the candidate blathered about Harper, still pushing for that sincere apology. "In a situation like this, it's all about knowing the right things to say."
The Bird knows you always do.
"I read your paper all the time," he chirped. "The New Press, right? You're kind of like the Village Voice, right?"
Uh-huh, Mr. Crappioppoli. Something like that.
Petty Criminal Sidekick
For a few years now, suggestions about "How to Make Downtown Phoenix Cool" have become as ubiquitous as the endless parade of moving vans that keep dumping piles of corpulent Midwesterners into Gilbert.
The Bird did its part, even giving economic development guru and Rise of the Creative Class author Richard Florida a chance -- and not just because New Times was sponsoring an event where Florida spoke. (Well, okay, maybe that did have something to do with it.) But there are limits to even this feathered fowl's boosterism, and putting up with poseurs like Henry Cisneros is where it draws the line.
Last month, the Arizona State University College of Design announced that it was bringing in Cisneros, the former mayor of San Antonio and Bill Clinton's secretary of Housing and Urban Development, for a special talk titled "Rebuilding America's Cities".
ASU's press kit for the event blathered on and on about Cisneros' many achievements, even citing his "unprecedented success" as HUD secretary -- an assertion that made The Bird nauseous.
But only because "unprecedented success" usually precludes things like Cisneros' 1997 indictment by a federal grand jury for lying about doling out $250,000 in hush money to an ex-mistress. And the 1999 plea deal in which he copped to a misdemeanor over lying to the FBI about those payments. Or his 2001 presidential pardon for these crimes.
And who can blame the ASU flacks for not mentioning that the independent prosecutor in the Cisneros case wrapped up his investigation this past January, having concluded that Clinton administration officials had blocked said prosecutor's inquiry?
Now, some people might disagree about the use of special prosecutors. Others might explain away $21 million investigations by saying they're just about guys who lie about their taxes. But who in his right mind would characterize a four-year stint that led to a 10-year investigation as "successful" -- or even unprecedented, for that matter?
On the other hand, no one would fail to find humor in the press packet these guys put together to sell Cisneros' speech. And that's because the talk, while ostensibly about urban development, was being sold on a bizarre idea: Phoenix has a lot in common with post-Katrina New Orleans.
"In many significant ways," ASU's sales pitch begins, "New Orleans and Phoenix share a common thread more profound than the concrete ribbon of the I-10 that courses through the center of each . . . New Orleans -- commanded to rise again and to necessarily greater heights -- and Phoenix serve as bookends to a new American ideal of sustainable and inclusive urbanism."
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Cisneros, the text continues, "will speak about how to bring rebirth to cities badly in need of repair."
The whole thing really made no sense. Until, that is, you noticed that Cisneros was scheduled to speak at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale. Now there's a place bursting with urban inclusiveness. To say nothing, of course, of north Scottsdale's, um, desperate need for repair. Or the fact that at this event tables were selling for $5,000 a pop. (To be fair, attendees were also offered "Reviving Downtown Neighborhoods Table Sponsorships" for a cut-rate $1,750 -- a factoid that did, in fact, cause this pugnacious parrot to spew its lunch.)
With this last bit, it all became clear: This has to be some colossal joke, dreamed up by a bored, mentally ill prankster at our local party-hardy university. Because no sane adult would dare to compare post-Katrina New Orleans with snooty Snottsdale. And no one but a demented clown would dare to charge pots of dough in return for a speech by a former president's petty criminal sidekick.