This week, Bird lovers, the Taloned Tallywacker begins his column with prayer. Please bow your heads.
Great Falcon God on High, this otherwise truculent tweeter asks you to bless all the hypocrites, self-serving media personalities, and corrupt public officials across Maricopa County.
That's right, cast your powerful, protective wing over the likes of bigoted KTAR blowhard Darrell Ankarlo, his sainted master, County Attorney Candy Thomas, and Thomas' froglike lackey Barnett Lotstein. Give them the strength to continue their Three Stooges-esque shenanigans, like their last bit, in which Candy's office ponied up $11,500 in RICO cash to promote Ankarlo's brown-bashing bag o' bile Another Man's Sombrero.
Why, if this lowly lapwing didn't have this trio of polecats to pounce upon, all he'd have left to skewer would be Sheriff Joe Arpaio — who's long been a lost cause headed for Satan's hellfire.
Oh, and please bless the feathered fiend's fellow Fourth Estaters. For even as they greedily gobble up this gander's scoops as their own — such as the aforementioned book-tour imbroglio, or the MCSO Honduras scam, or the revelation of a domestic-violence claim against Arizona Senate hopeful Russell Pearce — they do thy bidding and (hopefully) help drive Sand Land's sinner politicians into oblivion.
Thy kingdom come, thy winged will be done, on Earth as in your Big Nest in Heaven.
Thanks for bearing with The Bird as he put in a word for the Bozos associated with the County Attorney's sponsorship of the Ankarlo book tour, which this sapsucker first wrote about in a previous column ("FM Welfare," July 24).
See, though KTAR news director Russ Hill and County Attorney flack Mike Scerbo (himself formerly KTAR's news director) weren't sharing any details back then, this persistent pelican knew there was something fishy about the online ads and on-air announcements to the effect that Ankarlo's local book-signing tour was being brought to the good citizens of Maricopa County by the County Attorney's Office.
This finch figured Candy was dipping into RICO funds to pay KTAR for the mentions and the use of the county attorney's official seal on bookmarks, and said so in the column after requesting public records on the transaction from the C.A.'s office.
Then, in a press conference preceding a League of Women Voters-sponsored debate between Democratic primary rivals and potential Thomas-challengers Tim Nelson and Gerald Richard, Nelson denounced Thomas' use of RICO funds to sponsor the Ankarlo book tour. The contender pointed out that the state statute governing RICO funds is very specific in its uses, whether it's for anti-drug, anti-gang or anti-racketeering purposes. There's nothing in state law or in the U.S. Department of Justice RICO guidelines about illegal immigration, which is what Ankarlo's book is all about.
"This is exactly the type of political posturing that has characterized the last four years under Mr. Thomas," Nelson told the few reporters in attendance, including The Bird's colleague Sarah Fenske, who wrote about the presser in New Times' Valley Fever blog ("Tim Nelson Takes On Andrew Thomas' RICO Spending," July 30). "What does promoting a political book have to do with public safety?"
Slithering nearby was Thomas' unctuous underling Lotstein, there to whisper in the ear of gullible journos and hand out a copy of the "contract" between the C.A.'s Office and KTAR, putting the sponsorship's price tag at $11,500.
Sure, that's less than the over $200K Candy shelled out for hundreds of thousands of crime-prevention books stuck in PHX dailies, the $128K he paid the director of his so-called public service announcements (the same guy does his campaign ads), or the $168K for church-based orgs to sell Christ to kids.
Still, like the Sheriff's Office's RICO-funded escapades in Honduras, the C.A.'s paying for a radio show host's book tour smacks of a payoff, or at the very least, the misuse of public funds.
"It doesn't pass the smell test," former County Attorney Rick Romley explained to The Bird. "It clearly appears that [Thomas] is trying to buy favor with the radio station and one of the talk-show hosts."
Indeed, Thomas' RICO money was very well spent on the Ankarlo book tour. During the very broadcast wherein Ankarlo rationalized KTAR taking the moolah, Ankarlo repeatedly slammed Nelson. Ankarlo then had Thomas on for an interview at which time he announced he was endorsing Candy's re-election bid.
"All I can say to you, Andrew Thomas, is I had not decided for whom to vote come November," said Ankarlo, puckering up. "You're a shoe-in. I'm not going to even look at the other guys. You keep doing what you're doing, and I'll help you get as many votes as you can."
Who knew Ankarlo's endorsement could be so cheaply owned? The scratch mentioned may not go directly into Darrell's wallet, but his book benefits from it, and if Ankarlo really believes in the free market and all that conservative claptrap, can't his book tour do without this talk-radio welfare?
Ankarlo seemed shell-shocked by the controversy, contradicting himself at turns. At one point he claimed he had nothing whatsoever to do with the entire transaction. At another, he seemed to leave himself wiggle-room on that front.
"After I agreed to do these book-signings," Ankarlo stated, "I was approached. I did not go to anybody. People came to me and said, 'What do you think? You line up with the ideologies that the county attorney, Andrew Thomas, has regarding illegal immigration in the state of Arizona. Would you have any problems if [the County Attorney's Office] sponsored your book tour?'"
Ankarlo didn't stand on principle. See, it would have taken some scruples to recognize the obvious conflict of interest.
Here's an idea, Darrell. If you want to prove The Bird wrong about you, have your station donate the cash to a worthy cause — say an organization that helps kids orphaned because their parents have been deported. Or you could peel off a few bills of your own for the tykes.
The strangest and saddest part of this mess was hearing Nelson's primary rival, Richard, call in to Ankarlo's show to contradict Nelson and assure Ankarlo that neither he nor KTAR had done anything wrong. It was a desperate attempt to snag some airtime.
Richard should know better. Nelson had scored such a clean hit, showing that Thomas operated outside RICO law.
Meet the MCSO's latest high-profile perps: corn and snow cone vendors. Sheriff Joe popped 13 during his most recent anti-immigrant raid (according to ICE), this one in Maryvale.
These poor saps were arrested for the misdemeanor offense of not having the proper permit to sell food from a pushcart. As they're undocumented, Joe's 287g cross-trained goons are likely still leaning on them to sign voluntary departures back to their home countries, if they haven't signed them already.
True to his monicker, Nickel Bag went for the low-hanging fruit, trotting out food inspector Heather Hollister in a white lab coat, as if she had some business being there. But Hollister doesn't work for Maricopa County Environmental Services, the department charged with monitoring the county's health. She works for Joe in some capacity, according to Johnny Diloné, flack for the county health office.
By the way, Diloné says his office never asked for this bogus raid. His boss, Deputy Director John Kolman, said he knew nothing of it until Joe's boys struck. He needn't worry. This latest anti-brown dragnet had nothing to do with public safety, and everything to do with hauling in more HWPs (Hispanics Without Papers).
Lest you had any doubt about that, Joe eviscerated it with his wacky Archie Bunker-esque statements during his press conference.
"Our intelligence shows they get this corn from drophouses — all of these illegals," snorted the county's top porker.
Intelligence? Coming from Joe's yap, that word's oxymoronic (without the oxy part). Illegal corn? Figures. That Green Giant on the can looks like he's a furriner.
Were it not for the fact that these 13 people may never see their families again, Joe's buffoonery might be rib-tickling. But there's also the fact that he wasted 30 deputies on this operation. That's 30 deputies that could've been fighting crime. Plus, the county health office already has inspectors who hand out tickets.
What's really disgusting is that Immigration and Customs Enforcement allows Joe to use his 287g-trained deputies for his corn-vendor patrols. ICE has a formal Memorandum of Agreement with the MCSO on how Joe's allowed to utilize his 160-man-strong, federally empowered force. ICE flack Vinnie Picard claims that ICE monitors Joe's activity, only not closely enough to care about embarrassments like this snow cone sweep.
"When a law enforcement agency calls us and says they have a suspected illegal alien," explained Picard, "we're not evaluating the context of that encounter."
Asked if ICE would ever do a dragnet of corn vendors, Picard got prickly.
"Because we wouldn't use our resources that way doesn't mean it's inappropriate," he told this tweeter. "[Arpaio's] within the confines of the Memorandum of Agreement. He hasn't violated his agreement."
Phoenix activist and attorney Antonio Bustamante disagreed.
"There's not a word in that agreement that talks about corn or taco vendors," Bustamante said. "The agreement does specifically give five or six categories to go after, such as drug traffickers, violent criminals, gang members . . . Doesn't say a thing about people pushing food carts."
But if ICE ever objected to Joe's high-jinks, it wouldn't get the brown bodies and — more importantly — the numbers needed to justify its existence to Congress and a new administration come January.
ICE has picked the biggest thug in law enforcement and supplied him with the largest club imaginable — federal power. When rights are violated and Latinos persecuted in MCSO operations, ICE is just as culpable as Joe.
How is it possible that several journos present at Sheriff Joe's recent book-signing at Biltmore Fashion Park's Borders Books missed the most significant news event that transpired there?
Channel 3, Fox News, even a reporter from the paper of record were on hand as Joe, confronted with a house packed with opponents, opted not to address the crowd and just sign books. But that act of cowardice isn't the news item this nightingale's nattering about.
The Bird refers to the arrest of Anna Gaines, founder of American Citizens United, the nativist group engaged in a futile effort to recall Mayor Phil Gordon.
The crazy little Hobbit lady was on hand to get her book signed by Arpaio when this rascally raven spotted her in line and asked her how the recall was going. She claimed her group had 80 percent of the sigs necessary to force a recall. (Not too hot, with only a month to go.) And she kidded that The Bird might be next!
Thankfully, this peacock's position's appointed, not elected.
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But even if the opposite were true, the Taloned One would have nothing to fear from goofy Gaines and her ragamuffin crew. Seems that after Gaines got her book signed, she tried to circulate an anti-Phil petition in another part of the store. Security asked her to leave, she refused, and she was ultimately escorted from the premises in handcuffs while "acting belligerent," according to Phoenix police Sergeant Stacie Dergie.
The cops placed her in the back of a police SUV and took her down to the station, where she was issued a citation for trespassing, in lieu of being booked.
Criminal trespass in the third degree is a class 3 misdemeanor, with a maximum punishment of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. In other words, no great shakes. But Gaines' fellow nativists believe that anyone who commits a misdemeanor by crossing the border illegally is automatically a criminal, and, by the very act, "trespassing" on American soil. Does that make Gaines a "criminal" too?
The weirder question is how, out of all the media present, only this ornery oriole's blogging alter ego, Feathered Bastard, (and some Spanish-language press) snapped up the story. As most news orgs have covered the fact that Gordon's under a recall threat, you'd think their reporters would notice the item's news value. Um, their loss is The Bird's Anna Gaines.