Convict groupie Donna Hamm was arrested for obstruction June 12 outside Tucson during a staged media event. Hamm had bellowed into a bullhorn for an hour in a clumsy attempt to incite a chain gang of 20 men from the Arizona State Prison complex. Not content with marrying a murderer after his release from prison, Hamm is now deeply offended that felons are forced to trim weeds on local roadways. All the crocodile tears shed by Ms. Prisoner Rights advocate over Governor Fife Symington's newly formed chain gangs are a waste of salt water. If the work is so inhumane, why do almost 1,300 civic organizations--everyone from the physically handicapped to elderly quilters--already volunteer to perform the same roadside cleanup under the Department of Transportation's Adopt-A-Highway program? Grin Spin

On July 8, the Phoenix Suns' always-smiling Wayman Tisdale will stage his first major outdoor concert at Mesa Amphitheatre. If Tisdale were as good at putting the basketball in the hole as he is at shilling his new CD, the Suns, not Houston, would be the world champions of the NBA. At the start of the season, everyone worried about Phoenix's blue-collar centers, Joe Kleine and Dan Schayes. But these two guys, particularly Kleine, played like honkies possessed. It was Tisdale, the star, who stunk up the joint. No wonder so few teammates showed up at the Planet Hollywood debut of Tisdale's band.

Pointers From Corporate Titans
With Howard Cosell dead, Arizona Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill is now the most loathed person in sports.

Who else is close: Tonya Harding? Bill Wright? Don King?
Here's how bad it is.
Bidwill says his interest in moving his football team to Los Angeles is justified because promises made to him when he came to Phoenix about stadium improvements were not kept. Failed business leaders Keith Turley and Karl Eller countered last Friday morning that all commitments were honored. Only Bidwill could get in a pissing match with '80s has-beens Turley and Eller about the ethics of their negotiations--and lose.

Militia Alert
Although accused bomber Timothy McVeigh lived in Arizona, he was not the reason "Hang 'em High" prosecutor Richard Romley was invited to testify before a Senate subcommittee on terrorism. Senate staffers were more concerned about the possible support for the militia movement within law enforcement, given the statements of former Phoenix police officer Jack McLamb, a high-profile spokesman in the antigovernment world of conspiracies.

In the mass hysteria following the tragic bombing in Oklahoma City, the press fueled a call to abandon civil liberties in favor of infiltrating, wiretapping and wiping out the small, patriots-in-camouflage movement in America.

Romley's Senate testimony on June 15 illustrates the media's get-the-militia bent.

Though favoring the knee-jerk legislation, Romley also cautioned the senators, "It may be tempting to react quickly and harshly. This is where I urge caution. We must not be stampeded into quick but ill-conceived action because of the horror of immediate events. We must engage in calm and thoughtful deliberation before we choose our course of action. It must be consistent with our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. For we as Americans have the right to question and criticize our government."

Romley's moderate comments were ignored. Instead, the press focused on those remarks that threw dry mesquite on the antimilitia bonfire.

Romley says his office has identified only 13 local groups that might fit the militia designation. In fact, Romley's testimony did not identify a single example of local militia violence. Instead, the prosecutor reached back to 1989, citing the activity of high school skinhead Michael Bloom, a racist who kept pipe bombs and a map of targets in his bedroom. Nasty business, obviously, but unrelated to militias.

Last Thursday, according to sources in the Justice Department, the FBI in Phoenix held its first antiterrorist task force meeting. "The worst thing we can do is overreact," said Romley. "That would fall right into the plan of those who want to be martyrs." For the record, since Oklahoma City, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office has experienced an upswing in the number of disgruntled Constitutionalists formally renouncing their recognition of government. Forty individuals have sent such affidavits to Romley since the blast. According to Mary Lee Stegen, the administrative assistant to Romley's chief of investigations, most of the militia types who wrote in rejecting the validity of their driver's licenses were trying to get their cars listed as household goods, in order to duck the taxes on state-issued license plates.

One particularly crusty gent wrote that he would regard any police stop of his car as a "kidnaping," and that he would consider any officer who drew a weapon to have committed "an aggravated assault." (Which is, quite frankly, how I've always felt.)

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey