Saturday, February 19, 2022

Our Undoing is Our Becoming

The paradox found in the peace and restlessness of these desert lands, where rockslides, flash floods, and drought are commonplace, allows us to embrace the hardscrabble truths of change. In the process of being broken open, worn down, and reshaped, an uncommon tranquility can follow. Our undoing is also our becoming.

I have come to believe this is a good thing. -- Terry Tempest Williams, Vernal equinox 2019 (from page xiii, Erosion: Essays of Undoing, 2019)

 From Wikipedia about Terry Tempest Williams,

Terry Tempest Williams (born 8 September 1955), is an American writer, educator, conservationist, and activist. Williams' writing is rooted in the American West and has been significantly influenced by the arid landscape of Utah. Her work focuses on social and environmental justice ranging from issues of ecology and the protection of public lands and wildness, to women's health, to exploring our relationship to culture and nature. She writes in the genre of creative nonfiction and the lyrical essay.
I recently had the joyous opportunity to have Terry share her inspiration with me (but not only me) as I listened to a conversation with her hosted by Yavapai College in Prescott, AZ. Terry is a writer, but highlights artistic expression especially as reflects our environmental concerns. That's why I wanted to share this experience with you, Arizona Eagletarian readers. Please enjoy some or all of the conversation.

How many of my friends are moved by the urgency of the challenge to democracy in the United States of America? Of course it is an urgent matter. Williams can help us see it through a more hopeful lens.

Early in this conversation Williams describes the Council of Pronghorns. Read more about it here

Consider the Power of Art.

If you have any artistic inclination, I hope you raise your (artistic) voice to do good. BE and MAKE the change we need.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

What's in it for ME?

What's in It for Me?: How an Ex-Wiseguy Exposed the Greed, Jealousy, and Lust That Drive Arizona Politics
What's in It for Me?: How an Ex-Wiseguy Exposed the Greed, Jealousy, and Lust That Drive Arizona Politics by Joseph Stedino (with Dary Matera)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is Joe Stedino/Tony Vincent's memoir of his time fronting the biggest political sting/scandal in contemporary Arizona history, AZSCAM. It's an important story that 30 years ago received widespread local and national news coverage.

Even though AZSCAM has faded from general citizen awareness, no doubt long time journalists, columnists, and pundits still hold it in the back of their minds (I hope). Politicians were spanked but not hard enough to eliminate corruption from the State Capitol. Academic researchers have noted within the last decade Arizona's ranking at or damn near the top of scales measuring that civic disease. Arizona's propensity for wacko politicians is even worse today than it was on the heels of the Mecham era.

First and foremost, Arizona and all of America is rife with fraud in general and corporate and political greed in particular.

From the inception of the American experiment, there have been pols exploiting loopholes in ethics laws and rules. The struggle has and must continue to tighten laws and rules that actually hinder the right of the electorate to assert self-determination.

Reading Stedino's AZSCAM memoir must jab the imagination to come up with more than just tweaks. Next up for me is Michael Waldman's The Fight to Vote. He cites among other things, a progression toward more direct democracy.

I contend that disruptive technological innovation has arrived or is on the verge of revolutionizing American political systems toward that goal/end. Certainly there will still necessarily need to be sufficient guardrails to prevent chaos and anarchy, but I believe it is within reach.

View all my reviews

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Authority and Freedom


A brief excerpt from the fourth chapter of Jed Perl's new book, Authority and Freedom, A Defense of the Arts (which might be available from your local public library). 

Just about anything that's been felt or thought can fuel a work of art: hopes, dreams, passions, beliefs, principles, predilections, uncertainties, fears, even prejudices. There are many other areas of human experience and endeavor where these same forces are in play. But life in a civil society nearly always demands compromises and accommodations. 

We adjust our most ardent ideas and emotions as we reach for consensus. Creative spirits, although by no means immune to the social and political forces that shape their time, aren't consensus builders--at least not in any direct way. Because the work that artists do is detached from so much of what we think of as ordinary human activity and action--they're able to reimagine our ideas and experiences in an intensified, concentrated, and hyperbolic form.

There's a sense in which all creative spirits are extremists.

That helps explain why, for centuries, popes and princes were so interested in cultivating the work of painters, sculptors, authors, and composers. 

They recognized the unique, perhaps otherworldly impact of these achievements that stand apart from life's compromises, conflicts, and intrigues. A statue or poem honoring a god or a hero, precisely because it's immune to life's ordinary pressures, can have an impact unlike anything else on earth. -- Authority and Freedom, pgs 72, 73, by Jed Perl

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Bipartisanship failed on expanding voting rights. Kyrsten Sinema and her backers ignore that.

Editor's note: Jim Small, managing editor at, in this editorial, first published on his site, quickly rips the mask off of Kyrsten Sinema. It is my opinion that if Sinema actually had a soul, that process might (emotionally) hurt her. -- Arizona Eagletarian

Bipartisanship failed on expanding voting rights. Kyrsten Sinema and her backers ignore that.

The corporate establishment wing of the Republican Party that supports U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is aghast that liberals are angry and might hold her accountable for supporting the filibuster, fearful that an electoral defeat would usher in a senator who wouldn’t carry the water for big business.

And that’s why the top advocate for big business in Arizona is spinning hard for Sinema in the pages of the Arizona Republic this week. In an op-ed, Danny Seiden, the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, rallies to the senior senator’s side, sets up a straw man and accuses anyone angry at Sinema of being a hypocrite.


Aping Sinema’s main theme from her Senate floor speech defending the filibuster as an integral mechanism for democracy, Seiden posits that Sinema has been a victim of “vile, threatening and dishonest attacks.” And the backlash from the Left, noting the filibuster’s noxious and racist roots, and how it has been employed most often to stop civil rights progress, is “overheated, hateful rhetoric” that are both false and “corrosive.”

“If anything is a threat to democratic discourse, it’s language like this,” he wrote.

After all, Seiden intones, bipartisanship is the Best Thing™ and is an end unto itself, so anyone attacking Sinema for committing to working across the aisle really wasn’t sincere — an argument that imagines liberals are angry with the senator because she dares to work with Republicans, not because she publicly derailed much needed protections of voting rights in America.

“Throughout her first term, Sen. Sinema has demonstrated the kind of bold and brave public service many people may have thought died with the late Sen. John McCain,” he wrote. 

Ever since the Arizona Democratic Party censured Sinema, there has been no shortage of comparisons — frequently from establishment and corporate GOP apparatchiks — between her and McCain, who was famously censured by the Arizona Republican Party in 2014. Just two years later, he trounced Kelli Ward (who now leads the AZGOP) in a primary election on his way to a sixth term in the Senate.

The comparison fails in several ways. For starters, McCain had already been in the Senate for nearly 30 years when he faced the party’s ire. He was a war hero and was the most popular person in Arizona politics, loved by many for his “straight-talk” style of calling out what he saw as bad ideas, even from his own party.

Kyrsten Sinema has insisted on bipartisanship at all costs — even if it means refusing to stand up for American democracy. The result is that she stands arm in arm with the people who are actively trying to destroy it.

– Jim Small

Sinema, of course, has built her entire political career on being an “independent voice” for Arizona. Though she’s a Democrat, she has no love for the party — which was a selling point for her 2018 campaign and her successful bid to court moderate Republicans and center-right independents. It’s not an embellishment to say that she’s modeled herself after McCain, who she has called her “hero”, and believes herself the rightful heir to his mantle.

But our McCain LARP-er missed out on one of the key things that her political idol understood innately: You can speak out against your party, and even vote against it sometimes, but never on core partisan values.

When the rubber met the road, McCain voted like a Republican because he was a Republican. Throughout his career, he knew better than to publicly embarrass the party by leading the opposition to blocking anything major. The lone exception to that was in 2017, when he marched onto the Senate floor to give a dramatic thumbs down, leaving the GOP plan to kill off Obamacare in tatters — a vote that was as much about a dying man sticking a very public thumb in Donald Trump’s eye as anything else.

Contrast that with Sinema, who doubled up on angering Democrats: Passing strong voting rights legislation is a part of the party’s platform, and ending the filibuster has become orthodoxy among liberals at a lightning-fast rate since Sinema was elected in 2018. She was warned by the party in 2020 that she’d face a vote of no confidence if she chose to stand with Republicans in propping up the filibuster at the expense of voting rights, but she opted to do so anyway.

There’s little doubt that her doing so has been a monumental political disaster that has left her already strained relationship with Democrats a smoking crater.

But it’s also telling that Sinema — and her corporate and GOP backers — are eager to ignore the reality of the choice that she made. Democrats were miffed when Sinema wouldn’t go along to get along on the infrastructure spending bill to seek a bipartisan compromise, but her success in doing so meant something ultimately was passed.

Investments in infrastructure are exceedingly popular among voters, and corporate America had long been clamoring for many of the programs that wound up in the bill. And there were Republicans willing to work to find a spending plan they could support.

The same can hardly be said for voting rights — and it’s not because Democrats didn’t try. They spent months trying to negotiate a compromise on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Only one Republican backed it

Sinema is not backing the filibuster because it will lead to “better” voting rights legislation. There is no compromise forthcoming on this from Republicans, and she knows it. Their complaints are not made in good faith, and they have made it clear that their fealty to the Big Lie — or to constituents who believe it — is paramount.

Democrats aren’t abandoning Sinema because she favors bipartisanship. It’s because she has insisted on bipartisanship at all costs — even if it means refusing to stand up for American democracy. The result is that she stands arm in arm with the people who are actively trying to destroy it.


Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.