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So Goes Arizona, So Goes the Nation

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Message Larry Sakin
Anyone familiar with the column knows I b*tch a lot about the federal government. But as bad as our US Congress and executive can be, neither of them can match the ultra-conservative stances of lawmakers in my home state of Arizona.

Much of what happens in the Arizona legislature eerily reflects the more heinous aspects of the fed, but somehow we're able to put our own special bent on issues that impinge on everything from privacy rights to hyper-nationalism/patriotism. As the country expresses great consternation over the Bush administration peering into our phone and financial records, the Arizona Senate passed a bill which gives State agencies the right to hold back public records, especially if those agencies have somehow mishandled those records or violated state laws regarding them.

SB 1407 creates a Public Ombudsman's Office for people who've been denied access to public records, although it doesn't mandate agencies in violation of the law to hand over records to the office. In order to review those records, complainants must file a lawsuit against the offending agency (a long and expensive process). An earlier bill helps make it easier to recover costs for such actions, but doesn't guarantee action on the records. So what we have here is another place where people can futilely complain about real problems with no hope of that office doing anything about it.

It's bad enough that our private phone calls, emails, financial, medical, travel and god know what other information gets bandied about between the government, information brokers, identity thieves, and the companies who are supposedly providing us "services". But in Arizona, if some overworked state clerk attaches your Social Security number accidentally to a convicted murderer in the corrections system, there's precious little you can do make it right.

And while President Bush is distressed over the defeat of the Flag Desecration Amendment, he can take heart in knowing that in Arizona, there is a bill which mandates American flags be placed in all state funded universities and colleges. Yes, it's true. While freshman history students learn about the elitist system of government and memorize passages from the Communist Manifesto, they can proudly look in the left hand corner of the room and see Old Glory hanging just slightly above the door like so much mistletoe. My, how that sight will accelerate the learning process!

Of course, our dear leaders in the Arizona Congress made no provision in the bill to fund this enterprise. HB 2583 only requires that the Arizona Board of Regents purchase flags made in the good ol' US of A. The bill's sponsors suggest our public academies solicit donations in order to comply with the measure.

Representative Meg Cahill, D-Tempe opposed the bill. "I don't see the legislature making overwhelming increases in school funding," Cahill said. "Schools will have to cut something out to pay for this." Cahill's fellow House Democrat Ted Downing of Tucson added a caveat to include the US Constitution and Bill of Rights as a package deal with the flag, although Downing also had no suggestions as to how colleges are supposed to budget for these costs.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't think a flag in every classroom is going to improve the low academic output of our state schools. Both the UA and ASU are mostly known as party schools, and there's an up tick in the amount of trust fund babies that are making their way into these institutes of higher learning. It's doubtful that seeing the flag through their bloodshot eyes during early morning accounting classes will make a difference in their lives. But it is an election year, and here in Arizona those who wrap themselves in those classroom flags will get the votes.

So whenever you start feeling depressed over our nation's state of affairs, think about those of us here in Arizona, and what we're dealing with on a regular basis. If that doesn't make you break out laughing, nothing will.
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Larry Sakin is a former non-profit medical organization executive and music producer. His writing can be found on, Blogcritics, OpEd News, The People's Voice, Craig's List and The Progressive magazine. He also advocates for literacy and (more...)
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