Feathered Bastard

Arizona's Top Ten News Stories of 2012

All in all, 2012 hasn't been that bad of a year. Some good stuff transpired, and some of it happened because New Times' scribes made it happen. Usually to some very deserving recipients.

The great H.L. Mencken said it long ago, and it still holds true today: "Journalism is to politician as dog is to lamp-post."

Well, that's the way it should be, and that's the way New Times plays the game. Which is why calling our product "yellow journalism" is the highest of praise.

I can promise you a steady, er, stream of such reporting from myself and my compadres in 2013. For now, here's my pick of the top 10 Arizona news stories from 2012. Plus one extra for good measure.

10) Medical Mary Jane dispensary opens in Sand Land.

Despite Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery's best efforts to thwart the will of the voters, who in 2010 passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, the first medical pot dispensary opened in November to the thrill of Funyuns lovers statewide. Personally, I prefer bourbon, but to each his own. If a doctor can prescribe opiates, I fail to see why they can't prescribe you ganja. Hell, the stuff should be legal anyway.

9) We have Joe Arpaio to kick around for another four years.

As Billy Joel might say, Sheriff Joe is living proof that the good die young. At 80, MariKafka County's geezer dictator seems determined to be in office when he keels over of natural causes. Sadly, the voters still want the decrepit buzzard, despite the massive corruption, lawbreaking and mismanagement that plagues his office. That's because 50.7 percent of Maricopa County voters are idiots. And there's not a goddamn thing we can do about it but wait for them to all choke on their Geritol.

8) Neo-Nazi J.T. Ready kills himself and four others.

It's too bad Ready, erstwhile pal of disgraced, recalled state Senate President Russell Pearce, didn't use the first bullet on himself. But being the deranged, swastika-licking scum that he was, he murdered two women, one man, and a 15 month-old child before giving himself an extra hole in his head on May 2. Federal law enforcement could have done something about Ready, who liked to roam the desert with other neo-Nazis, armed with long guns, taking illegal immigrants prisoner. But they were more keen on taking custody of the migrants. Which shows you where their priorities lie.

7) U.S. Supreme Court Rules on Senate Bill 1070.

In a 5-3 ruling handed down on June 25, the Supremes declared that three sections of Arizona's racist immigration statute SB 1070 were pre-empted by federal law. While re-affirming the federal government's "broad, undoubted power" over immigration, it allowed the so-called "papers, please" portion of the 1070, section 2(b), to stand. However, the court left open the door to future challenges to that section, and the ACLU has vowed to keep battling 1070 in court. Meanwhile, the public generally seems to have moved on, weary of this never-ending donnybrook.

6) Sheriff Joe's racial-profiling trial in Melendres v. Arpaio.

Since the U.S. Attorney's Office wimped out on bringing federal corruption and abuse of power charges against Arpaio, and since 50.7 percent of the electorate still worships the ground this pompous dipshit struts on, those in this county who want a little justice served to the octogenarian autocrat have to hope that District Court Judge G. Murray Snow has kept his pimp hand strong when it comes to Arpaio's racial-profiling ways.

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Joe as well, but it took more than four years for the ACLU's Melendres v. Arpaio to finally go to trial this past July 19. Feel like waiting another four? The sheriff and the MCSO are guilty as sin when it comes to a pattern and practice of discrimination against Latinos. If Snow doesn't order Arpaio to heel, that pattern and practice will continue.

5) The release of the FBI's case file on Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.

Corruption, arrogance, lawbreaking, abuse of power. Hey, that's par for the course for public servants here in Cactus Country. But Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne one-upped his crooked colleagues by hiring his alleged mistress Carmen Chenal to a six-figure salary on the state payroll. In a Nixonian effort to keep the affair hush-hush, he ordered an internal investigation to determine who was leaking info on his girlfriend to a certain reporter in town. (Three guesses who that is.)

This backfired big time when his investigator uncovered evidence that the AG had illegally coordinated with an independent expenditure committee during the 2010 campaign, turning it over to the FBI. When the FBI's probe was made public in October, Horne became a laughingstock and the image of the state's top law enforcement officer swapping cars, donning baseball hats, and engaging in a hit-and-run while meeting up with Chenal was forever cemented in the public consciousness, thus ending any planned bid Horne had for higher office.

4) Andrew Thomas disbarred.

As bad as Tom Horne's shenanigans have been, they pale beside the truly frightening activities of former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who along with Deputy County Attorney Lisa Aubuchon, and to a lesser extent DCA Rachel Alexander engaged in witch hunts against the political enemies of Thomas and his fellow Sith Lord Joe Arpaio.

Newspaper publishers, county supervisors, superior court judges, ordinary civil servants, all were targeted by Thomas and Arpaio. The sheriff could arrest you on bogus charges, and Thomas could prosecute you on bogus charges. No one was safe while Thomas was in a place to do Arpaio's bidding.

Both Arpaio and Thomas should be behind bars for their misdeeds. And if we were in a less corrupt state, they probably would be. So we'll have to take solace from Thomas being disbarred in April by a three-person disciplinary panel of the Arizona Supreme Court. For a lawyer, that's like a death sentence. His hatchetwoman Aubuchon got the same. And Alexander drew a six month suspension.

I will give Horne points, however, for beating Thomas in the 2010 GOP primary for AG. If that hadn't happened, I doubt the State Bar of Arizona would have pursued Thomas & Co. the way it did. And as self-destructive and self-serving as Horne is, he's no Andy Thomas, that's for sure.

3) Sheriff Paul Babeu's gay Mexican lover.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu was pretty much headed to Congress from Arizona's First Congressional District until my colleague Monica Alonzo revealed that the Fox News darling and anti-immigrant crusader had threatened his Mexican ex-boyfriend with deportation if the boyfriend didn't keep mum about their affair. Text messages, photos of a half-nekkid Babeu, and a profile of Babeu under the handle "studboi1" on the gay hookup site Adam4Adam.com revealed Babeu as a colossal idiot and hypocrite. He ended up withdrawing from the congressional race and running back to Pinal to seek re-election as sheriff. Amazingly, he was re-elected. But if it had not been for Alonzo's story, he'd likely be in congress right now. Which is why she's journalist of the year in my book.

2) Russell Pearce loses for the 2nd time.

The only thing sweeter than watching former state Senate President Russell Pearce being ripped from power during his 2011 recall was witnessing his defeat this August at the hands of fellow Republican Bob Worsley in the Legislative District 25 GOP primary for state Senate. Worsley bested Pearce by almost the same double-digit margin that Jerry Lewis beat him by in 2011. In doing so, Worsley ended the myth that Pearce only lost the first time because of the recall's open-primary-like election, and he gave me the pleasure of being able to call Pearce a "two-time loser," whenever I write about him. Thanks, Bob!

1) Redistricting.

It's tough to overestimate the importance of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission's final congressional and legislative maps, which were approved by commissioners in January. The AIRC redrew congressional and legislative districts in such a way as to make the Arizona's overall political landscape more competitive. The results? A 5-4 Democrat to Republican split in the state's U.S. House delegation, an end to the GOP's super-majority in the state legislature, and the booting of some of the crazier members of the GOP's legislative ranks. Of course, some are not happy about the purpling of AZ, so the AIRC is being sued up the wazoo in state and federal court.

Republicans, they just can't stand a fair fight.

Bonus item: The ending of TUSD's Mexican American Studies program.

In January, the Tucson Unified School District bowed to pressure from state Schools Superintendent John Huppenthal and ended the district's unfairly maligned (by wing-nuts, that is) Mexican American Studies Program. Almost a year later, there's hope in the form of a desegregation plan pending before a federal judge, which could bring the successful program back. If that happens, the right-wingers, who believe history belongs to whitey, will have to go pound sand. And that would be a beautiful thing to behold.

With that, I'm off to imbibe heavily pending the singing of Auld Lang Syne come midnight. Happy New Year to all. Let's set out minds to kicking more racist redneck ass in 2013 than we did in 2012.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons