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Posts for February, 2014

Tucson Pizzeria Refuses Service to Arizona Lawmakers

Jim Burroway

February 21st, 2014

In the wake of Arizona’s legislators’ enacting a special-right-to-discriminate law for religious people, Tucson’s Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizza has posted a sign on its front door reading, “We reserve the right to refuse service to Arizona Legislators.” Rocco’s has received an outpouring of support on Facebook:

Hey, just want to say that all we want to do is cook you some dinner. Not trying to be anything but your neighborhood pizzeria. Thanks for the support!

Also, this:

Gay, Pro-Gay Candidates Win Big

Jim Burroway

November 9th, 2011

Yesterday was a very good day for gay and -pro-gay candidates throughout the country. Here is a wrap-up. Please let me know what else is out there in the comments.

NOM Loses Big: Same-sex marriage remains secure in Iowa as Liz Mathis won big, 56-44%, over her NOM-backed opponent, Cindy Golding, in a special election for the Iowa state Senate. The National Organization for Marriage threw about $40,000 toward their failed attempt to elect Golding by making same-sex marriage an issue in the race. But soon after it was clear Golding lost, NOM’s cultural director Thomas Peters tweeted: “That’s what happens when a state GOP nominates a weak candidate.” Wow. Talk about your fair weather friends.

Virginia’s First: Adam Ebbin became the first openly gay state senator in Virginia after defeating his Republican challenger by a margin of 64-35%. His district, which is solidly Democratic, includes parts of Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax counties.

First Openly Gay, African-American Republican Mayor: At least that’s what we think happened when Bruce Harris was elected mayor of Chatham Borough, New Jersey.

Charlotte’s First: LaWana Mayfield became the first openly gay city council member as part of a Democratic landslide in North Carolina’s largest city. North Carolina, which will see a marriage amendment on the ballot next year, saw a number of other LGBT victories:

  • Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt won re-election with 78% of the vote.
  • Lee Storrow, a gay 22-year-old UNC grad won his race for a seat on the Chapel Hill city council.
  • Carrboro incumbent Alderwoman Lydia Lavelle was re-elected to another term for city council.

Cincinnati’s First: Chis Seelbach became the first openly gay city council member. He worked in 2004 to help defeat Article XII in the city charter which banned anti-discrimination ordinances for gay people.

Indianapolis’s First: Zach Adamson became the first openly gay city council member. S

Missoula’s First: Caitlin Copple became the first openly gay city council member. She defeated one of only two city council members who voted against the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance in 2010, which made Missoula the first city in Montana to provide discrimination protections in housing and employment regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Youngest Mayor: Alex Morse, 22, beat incumbent mayor Mary Pluta in Holyoke, Massachusetts, to become the nation’s youngest mayor.

Houston Re-elects: Mayor Annise Parker was re-elected with more than 50% of the vote, a margin which allows her to avoid a run-off. Mike Laster also became the first openly gay member of Houston’s city council.

Traverse City Supports Anti-Discrimination Ordinance: Voters in Traverse City, Michigan voted by a 2-to-1 margin to keep an anti-discrimination ordinance.  The vote came more than a year after Traverse City adopted the ordinance to prevent discrimination against gays in employment, housing and other areas. Opponents of the measure collected signatures to place a referendum for repeal on the ballot.

And on a final note, there were a number of gains in school board elections around the country which I didn’t cover, but I would like to point one out anyway: Daniel Hernandez, Jr., Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s openly gay intern, was elected to as seat on the board of the Sunnyside Unified School District in Tuscon’s south side. Hernandez was one of the recognized heros during the January shooting at a Northwest side Safeway which killed  six and critically injured Rep. Giffords. And on a more personal note, I couldn’t be happier about the stunning news that Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, architect of infamous anti-immigrant S.B. 1070 which was later found unconstitutional, was ousted by voters in favor of a political newcomer in Mesa.

Shooting Victim Threatens Tucson Tea Party Leader

Jim Burroway

January 16th, 2011

James Eric Fuller, 63, a naval air veteran who was shot in the knee and had bullet fragments in his back as a the result of last week’s shooting at Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s meet-and-greet at a Tucson Safeway, was involuntarily committed for a mental-health evaluation after allegedly threatening a Tucson Tea Party leader during a local town hall meeting:

The theme of the event was “An American Conversation Continued” –  the idea being to continue the conversation that a madman’s brutal rampage had interrupted.  So it was inevitable that the conversation would eventually turn to politics. It did, toward the end, with (ABC News Anchor Christiane) Amanpour leading a discussion on a very touchy but obvious topic:  gun control.

That’s where the atmosphere turned tense. When Tucson Tea Party founder Trent Humphries rose to suggest that any conversation about gun control should be put off until after the funerals for all the victims, witnesses say Fuller became agitated.  Two told KGUN9 News that finally, Fuller took a picture of Humphries, and said, “You’re dead.”

When State Rep. Terri Proud (R-Tucson) rose to explain and clarify current and proposed gun legislation in the state, several people groaned or booed her.  One of those booing, according to several witnesses, was Fuller. Witnesses sitting near Fuller told KGUN9 News that Fuller was making them feel very uncomfortable.

The event wrapped up a short time later.  Deputies then escorted Fuller from the room. As he was being led off, Fuller shouted loudly to the room at large. Several witnesses said that what they thought they heard him shout was, “You’re all whores!”

Sheriffs deputies detained Fuller and charged him with one count of threats and intimidation, and said they plan to charge him with at least one count of disorderly conduct.  Humphries said that he plans to press those charges. The Associated Press reports that Fuller was taken to a local mental health facility for evaluation.

The town hall meeting at St. Odilia Catholic Church was organized by ABC-TV to discuss the shooting which killed six people and wounded thirteen, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Many Tucsonans were outraged when Humphries tried to blame the shooting on Gabrielle Giffords for not providing security at the event held at a Safeway parking lot. He also tried to cast the Tea Party as an additional victim in the tragedy.

St. Odilia had been the host of a community memorial service on January 11. Two of the six killed were Catholic, including nine-year-old Christina Taylor-Green who attended St. Odilia and sang in the parish’s children’s choir. Meanwhile, the Safeway where the shooting took place reopened yesterday morning following a moment of silence. Across town, a gun show opened at the Pima County Fairgrounds as originally planned and with nary a peep of protest. Things really are starting to get back to normal around here.

Update: Fuller apologizes:

Fuller apologized through his girlfriend, Dorothy Deruyter. He has been in a hospital since being involuntarily committed Saturday for a mental health evaluation but wrote a statement and called Deruyter.

Fuller apologized for his “misplaced outrage.” Deruyter said Fuller has no family or children, and was coping with the shooting almost entirely on his own and lost his temper.

Fuller is still undergoing psychological evaluation and treatment. Based on this New York Times profile, it looks like Fuller was combative before the shooting.

Memorial And Rally? Very Well: A Memorial and Rally

Jim Burroway

January 13th, 2011
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The memorial was nothing short of magnificent, and it was exactly what this city needed. It was, at turns, somber and celebratory. Tucsonans have been in a severely depressed funk, dazed and stunned that something like this could happen here.

I hear some small-minded grumbling that the event was somehow too “raucous” or a “rally.” Well you know what? A rally is just what we needed. Those who sit in judgment in their comfortable offices and studios on the coasts tut-tutting last night’s memorial haven’t had to drive by the still-closed Safeway every morning and every evening to and from work. They haven’t been within a thousand miles of the nightly vigils at UMC and at Gabrielle Giffords’s congressional office. They haven’t turned on television to see their own neighbors grieving in wall-to-wall coverage. They haven’t picked up their local newspapers to read the dozens of stories about the tragedy and then turn the page, thinking perhaps that they were finished with those heartbreaking stories, only to be confronted by the same familiar names and photos in the obituaries. They haven’t made plans to attend some of the funerals which begin today. They won’t pull over to the side of the road as the funeral processions pass on the way to the cemetery. They haven’t seen their beloved town turned into something unrecognizable. When they have experienced all of this, maybe then they can legitimately criticize our desire last night to tentatively shake off our sack cloths and wash away the ashes, if only for a moment. But not until then.

Tucsonans have undergone a stunned mourning for five solid days now. It’s about time we also celebrate, and yes, cheer, our community’s coming together and move toward the future. It is time to rally our wounded community, and to resolve to build a better, kinder, and more civilized world.

When tragedies like this strike, we expect the President to come grieve among the people. And yet, Tucsonans appeared genuinely surprised and touched when the President announced he was coming here. I had wanted to take a half-day off work and get in line for the memorial, but when I got up yesterday morning I learned that a long line had already formed the night before. By noon it was already clear that there was no way anyone who wasn’t already there would get into the McKale Center. So my partner and I saw it on television at home. I don’t know how the major networks carried the event. We chose to watch it on local TV, which simply carried the live feed and ditched the voiceovers, pundits and real-time crawls.

I thought Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s address was splendid. She was kind, wonderfully gracious, and very generous. The blessing at the beginning was touching, given by someone whose ancestry in Tchuk Shoon predates the arrival of “Americans” and reminds us of the timelessness of this valley that has drawn so many to the Old Pueblo, as we like to call our city. We celebrated our heros who ran toward the gunfire, and we learned for the first time that Gabby Giffords had opened her eyes. And with that, it is my hope that President Barack Obama’s exceptional speech opens all of our eyes, so that we, too, can build a society worthy of Christina Taylor-Green’s spirit.

Click here to read a transcript of President Obama’s speech

AZ Lawmakers Move to Limit Westboro Baptist Protests at Funerals

Jim Burroway

January 11th, 2011

Soon after Saturday’s heinous massacre of six Tucsonans and the injuring of fourteen others including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Westboro Baptist’s Fred Phelps announced via video that the shooter, Jared Loughner, was appointed by Phelps’s god to do the evil deed and that the Westboro clan would protest the funerals. Arizona state Sen. Kirsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) swung into action:

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed into law emergency legislation to head off picketing by a Topeka, Kan., church near the funeral service for a 9-year-old girl who was killed during Saturday’s shooting in Tucson. Unanimous votes by the House and Senate on Tuesday sent the bill to Brewer. It took effect immediately with her signature Tuesday night. The new law prohibits protests within 300 feet of a funeral or burial service.

…Arizona State Representative Kyrsten Sinema said when she heard of the plans, she got downright angry and decided to take action.  Sinema sponsored Senate Bill 1101 and got some help from fellow legislators.  “We patterned legislation after Ohio’s law which is constitutional, it’s been upheld in court, and I got permission from the speaker and the senate president to wave the rules,” Sinema said.

…”The bill requires them to be at least 300 feet away from the funeral from an hour before the funeral starts to an hour after it ends and that way people can grieve and love in peace,” Sinema said.

The bill passed the Arizona House and Senate in record time, and was signed into law at 3:00pm by Governor Brewer. The first funerals will take place on Thursday. The Boston-based Phelps-A-Thon has pledged to make a donation to Wingspan’s Anti-Violence Project of Southern Arizona for every funeral the Phelps clan protests. Wingspan is the LGBT community center for Tucson and southern Arizona. You can also donate directly to Wingspan here.

Meanwhile President Barack Obama has announced that he will speak at a community memorial service scheduled for tomorrow evening. The memorial begins at 6:00pm MST at the McKale Center on the University of Arizona campus.

The State of Our Union

Jim Burroway

January 10th, 2011

A billboard in Tucson advertising Rush Limbaugh's radio program, festooned with a half-dozen simulated bullet holes for the "straight shooter."

A senior Republican senator, speaking anonymously in order to freely discuss the tragedy, told POLITICO that the Giffords shooting should be taken as a “cautionary tale” by Republicans. “There is a need for some reflection here – what is too far now?” said the senator. “What was too far when Oklahoma City happened is accepted now. There’s been a desensitizing. These town halls and cable TV and talk radio, everybody’s trying to outdo each other.”

The vast majority of tea party activists, this senator said, ought not be impugned. “They’re talking about things most mainstream Americans are talking about, like spending and debt,” the Republican said, before adding that politicians of all stripes need to emphasize in the coming days that “tone matters.”

“And the Republican Party in particular needs to reinforce that,” the senator said.

In case you missed it, that’s a senior Republican senator who had to remain anonymous so he or she could “freely discuss” this.

If It Can Happen Here, It Can Happen Anywhere

A commentary

Jim Burroway

January 9th, 2011

As my partner and I were out running errands this afternoon, I snapped this photo along I-10 just south of the Ina Road exit. If you go about three miles to the east from I-10 on Ina, you will encounter the fateful Safeway that is, as we speak, still roped off with police tape and crawling with investigators. The billboard is for Rush Limbaugh’s radio program on local Clear Channel KNST, and it appears on a Clear Channel billboard. Limbaugh’s “Straight Shooter” billboard is festooned with six or seven bullet holes. Given the political climate of the past few years — and especially after yesterday’s events — it’s a damning indictment of what so many on the far right find acceptable in political discourse.

I mean, really. What’s a few bullet holes anyway?

But as we were driving around town, we heard on the radio that the second person of interest turned out to be Jared Loughner’s taxicab driver. The driver accompanied Loughner into the Safeway while Loughner got change to pay the driver. He had nothing to do with the shooting. And with that, the most promising immediate link that may have tied the shooting to extremist right-wing rhetoric has vanished once again.

Let me emphasize: it’s not to say that there is no link. But if there is one, no evidence has been disclosed for it yet. So if someone wants to claim that there is one, they better come up with some sort of hard facts for it. So far, none has surfaced. And believe me, if it does, I will be among the most eager to put that evidence right here.

That’s because, setting aside whatever Loughner’s motivations may be, I firmly believe that because of the political climate exemplified by that billboard, we are living in extremely dangerous times. And whatever demonization taking place on the far left pales, in terms of  both the scope and the influence,  to the far greater demonization from the far right that is amplified daily on Fox News and Clear Channel. I believe that as strongly as I do that the sun will rise tomorrow morning.

Over the past two years, we have seen border militia members kill Arizona citizens. We’ve seen Arizona citizens demand that other Arizona citizens — whose ancestors have been here far longer than the suspicious newcomers — prove their innocence and right to walk down a street. We’ve seen a governor shrieking about completely imaginary headless bodies in the desert and a state government that has decided that poor Arizonans’ lives aren’t worth life-saving transplant surgeries. People who need a heart won’t find one here. We see a political climate where our president is not only accused of being un-American, but — against all the overwhelming evidence to the contrary — a non-American. We see a cultural climate where “real Americans” can build a house of worship wherever they please, but American Muslims can’t. We’ve seen hysteria over “death panels” coming to kill grandma.

And so, acting on that outrage, a Tennessee man shot up a church because he was angry at liberals, wierdos and homos, and someone in Maryland is mailing explosive packages addressed to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. We’ve seen people carrying automatic weapons to rallies and congressional meet-and-greets (another man was arrested at a Giffords meeting last August when his concealed pistol fell to the floor). And we saw literal gun-sight targets drawn over congressional districts, including Rep. Giffords’s.

And so we shouldn’t we be surprised if some nutcase — and not a literal schizophrenic nutcase that Loughner appears to be — decides to take a weapon and perform his “patriotic duty.”

Based on what investigators have disclosed so far, that has not literally happened — yet. Authorities are investigating several angles, but so far what some see as ties to far-right fringe groups remain highly speculative at best. As of this evening it still appears more likely that Loughner was acting at the behest of his own demons rather than of those on the demonizing edges of the far right.  This could still change — being mentally ill does not preclude one from being influenced by extreme rhetoric, and may actually enhance the possibility for some — but right now the assertion that our poisonous political culture had anything to do with yesterday’s rampage is still very much unproven, but not extinguished. We may learn more about what was going through Loughner’s shattered mind in the days and months to come. But the more I learn about Loughner’s behavior, the more I’m convinced that he is suffering from the same mental illness that took my best friend in high school and two of my cousins. The symptoms are too specific and too familiar. (Update: I should add that I have no insight into the severity of Loughner’s condition. Being mentally ill with schizophrenia does not automatically make one criminally insane.)

Which means that this is an excellent opportunity for everyone to step back and reaffirm to ourselves and to each other that we are all fellow citizens and patriots of a pretty damn amazing country. If we don’t, I’m afraid — literally afraid — that we will soon fall into an abyss that we may not be able to crawl out of.

Given what we know today, I see no reason why those of us who consider ourselves progressives can’t concede that Palin, Limbaugh, and the others got lucky (if you can call it that) and that they probably aren’t responsible this time. Maybe we can even let them off the hook — IF they can agree that we all need to come together as Americans who all love our country equally, whether we’re on the left, the right or anywhere in between. Because we all need to acknowledge that none of us has a monopoly on loving America. None of us wants to see our nation destroyed. Maybe this can be an opportunity for everyone can drop their torches and pitchforks, and instead resolve to disperse the poisonous fumes that have very nearly ruined us as a people. I see no reason why the right shouldn’t be able to agree to that and change its behavior accordingly, just as I see no reason why the left needs to insist, with hardly a smidgen of proof, that a schizophrenic young man is somehow the far right’s creation. The energy expended pursuing those accusations can be better spent addressing the daunting needs of the severely mentally ill.

My hope is that somehow we can find a way to do that. My fear, though, is that we have already crossed the Rubicon and there is no turning back. And if it does turn out that Loughner’s shattered mind was nudged by either the right or the left, then all bets are truly off.

It Happened Here

A commentary.

Jim Burroway

January 9th, 2011

My city is reeling this morning. Six dead, fourteen injured. Dorwan and Mavanell Stoddard, a retired couple in their seventies, were standing in line at Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s meet-and-greet at a Northwest side Safeway when the shooting started. He’s dead; she was shot in the legs and is expected to recover, physically. Two more retirees, Phyllis Schneck, 79; and Dorothy Morris, 76; are also dead. Third-grader Christina-Taylor Green had recently been elected to student council at Mesa Verde Elementary and went to learn more about government. She, too, is dead. U.S. District Judge John Roll had just said hi when the shooting started. He’s dead. So is a Giffords aide, thirty-year-old Gabe Zimmerman, who was engaged to be married.

Thirteen others, besides Giffords, are wounded. Five, including Giffords, are in critical condition and five are in serious condition. The Red Cross put out a call for blood donations. The area in front of University Medical Center was the site of a candlelight vigil. The flickering flames struggled to remain visible in the glare of television cameras. The intersection of Ina and Oracle, Northwest Tucson’s busiest intersection and site of the shooting, is now open, but the shopping center itself remains sealed off.

Everyone says this sort of thing doesn’t happen here. People say that everywhere this sort of thing happens.

There’s more focus this morning on local media on Jared Loughner’s mental state. The picture that emerges from people who knew him confirms what I noticed yesterday; the man had struggled with serious mental problems. He had been expelled from Pima Community College, and barred from coming back unless he underwent psychological evaluation and obtained certification that he was not a threat to others. Obviously, he never obtained that certification.

There are a lot of blogs trying to pin this on tea party politics. I do believe that the rhetoric that animates the tea party and now infects Fox News and much of mainstream Republicanism is extremely dangerous and is quite capable of stoking violence like this. But the more we learn about Loughner, the more it appears that this hateful rhetoric had little influence on Loughner’s motive. None of his rambling writings reference conservative or tea party politics. Instead, he accuses the government of mind control and brainwashing by controlling grammar. As I wrote yesterday, he is clearly struggling to make sense of reality, a common problem with people with schizophrenia.

There is, however, a second person of interest. Police are looking for a 40- to 50- year old man who is believed to have been at that Safeway with Loughner. So that part of the story clearly isn’t a closed book. And it still doesn’t diminish what Pima County sheriff Clarence Dupnik said at yesterday’s news conference.

When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.

“It’s not unusual for all public officials to get threats constantly, myself included. And that’s the sad thing of what’s going on in America. Pretty soon, we’re not going to be able to find reasonable, decent people who are willing to subject themselves to serve in public office.

Whatever may or may not have motivate Loughner, I think Dupnic has it right: Arizona has become a “sort of the capital” for prejudice and bigotry. I have never seen a more rapid decline in the political climate anywhere. State politics here is turning resident against resident, citizen against citizen. Hours after Giffords’s health care vote, her office was vandalized. At a similar Giffords meet-and-greet last August, police carted away someone whose pistol had fallen out of his holster before he was able to approach Giffords. Private Minutemen militias kill American citizens near the border, and suspicious white powder shows up at Rep. Raul Grijalva’s office. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.

Yesterday, as my partner and I were leaving a Home Depot about a mile south of the shooting, we overheard a man on a cell phone telling someone to stay indoors because someone is shooting. We hadn’t heard anything and just assumed he was talking about something happening somewhere else. Things like that don’t happen here. But now we know it does. And unless we all examine our consciences, worse will happen, not by someone who is mentally ill but by someone who has his wits about him and is capable of doing even more harm.

Rep. Giffords’s Shooter’s YouTube Channel

Jim Burroway

January 8th, 2011

Twenty-two year old Jared Lee Loughner was identified by police as Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s shooter. He is now in custody. From the looks of his YouTube channel, I believe he exhibits  the classic signs of schizophrenia.

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Mental illness and a grievance. A deadly combination.

Update: Let me explain myself. I am not a mental health professional, but my best friend in high school succumbed to schizophrenia. I also have two cousins with the disorder, although I have not been in contact with them in decades. These videos, to me, look hauntingly familiar, as soon as I saw the first one. don’t think so. Look at some of the other videos. He uses the same kind of language and “grammar.” In effect, he thinks he’s inventing his own language and currency.

I know there are a lot of people tempted to indict the Tea Party. About an hour ago, I would have been first in line with the pitchfork and torches. But I don’t think that’s what’s going on here.  Yes, Loughner’s talk of language, currency, unconstitutional police actions — these are all topics that are favorites of tea-partiers, but the concepts that the tea party is pushing are utterly absent in Loughner’s videos. Instead, what clear to me is that he is trying to do what a lot of people with the most serious cases of schizophrenia are trying to do. He is trying to create some sort of ordered structure out of the chaotic shards of his perceptions. And failing. I’ve seen this too many times before.

Rep Gabrielle Giffords Shot In Tucson

Jim Burroway

January 8th, 2011

This is shocking news. Barely one mile from where I am right now, Rep. Gabriel Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head at point-blank range while hosting a “Congress On Your Corner” meet and greet event at a Safeway supermarket. Early reports said that she was killed, but latest reports have her undergoing surgery at University Medical Center, the only Level I trauma center in Southern Arizona.

A victim being loaded onto a helicopter on Ina Rd. Oracle and Ina Roads, two major thorouughfares in northwest Tucson, are closed to traffic.

It is not clear right now whether the gunman is still at large or not. One report has it that the gunman, apparently in his mid-20′s, shot off 20 rounds with an automated weapon. Channel 13 is reporting that at least five people were killed, and six were injured.

Last March, her Tucson office was vandalized a few hours after the House vote overhauling the nation’s health care system, the authorities said.

Update: 1:41 MST: A suspect is in custody. He has not been identified. Nine people were brought to the hospital, including a child. All of them are in either serious or critical condition and are undergoing surgery.

Update: 1:47 MST: The Pima County sheriff’s office now says that six people have died and 18 were injured.

Update: 1:50 MST: Channel 4 spoke with Tucson City Manager Richard Miranda, who says that that Rep. Giffords is expected to pull through. This is a promising, if unconfirmed report.

Update: 1:53 MST: A press conference is scheduled for 2:00 at University Medical Center.

Update: 2:06 MST: The gunman, who still has not been identified, is said to be 22 years old and with  “limited law enforcement experience.” He walked up behind Giffords and started firing. He tried to escape on foot but was tackled and held until police arrived. Giffords had reportedly received numerous threats.

This may not have been the first attempt on Giffords’s life. Last August, protester showed up at another supermarket event was apprehended by police when a pistol he holstered slipped and fell to the floor. And then, there’s this:

During the fall campaign, Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice-presidential candidate, posted a controversial map on her Facebook page depicting spots where Democrats were running for re-election; those Democrats were noted by crosshairs symbols like those seen through the scope of a gun. Ms. Giffords was among those on Ms. Palin’s map.

Update: 2:13 MST: The Sheriff’s office says that the suspect used “a pistol with an extended magazine.” Sheriff deputies are currently executing multiple search warrants at multiple locations. They have not ruled out a second suspect.

Update: 2:15 MST: From the news conference at UMC:

Trauma surgeon Peter Rhee called the situation a catastrophe. He said UMC received 10 patients and one child who is dead. Five are in critical condition and five are in surgery, he said.

The congresswoman is in critical condition. Neurosurgeons have finished operating on her after she was shot through the head one time. Rhee is optimistic about her condition because she was able to follow commands.

Rep. Giffords is in intensive care.

Update: 2:19 MST: The suspect has been identified as 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner. Five are dead, including a nine-year-old child. Thirteen have been injured. In addition to the victims taken to UMC, four were also taken to St. Mary’s Hospital, three with gunshot wounds.

Update: 2:24 MST: The death toll now stands at six. Among the dead: a nine-year-old girl, an aide to Rep. Giffords, and U.S. District Judge John Roll.

Update: 3:29 MST: From UMC:

Rhee says 10 patients were delivered to UMC – of those, 1 young girl is dead, 5 people are critical condition and 5 people are in surgery. Rhee says the deceased girl was about 9 years old.

Update: 3:27 MST. Here is the shooter’s YouTube channel.

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Four other videos here. This is looking more and more like a case of mental illness:

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Mentally ill, and with a grievance:

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Maurice Grossman (1927-2010)

Jim Burroway

January 22nd, 2010

Maurice GrossmanThe world is full of cheerful, unsung heroes. One of them passed away this morning and Tucson is a bit less cheerful for his passing.

Maurice Grossman, a former University of Arizona art professor, died this morning following heart valve replacement surgery. He was 82.

Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1927, he became an educator and ceramic artist in Arizona. He studied at Wayne State University and earned an MFA at Ohio State University. From 1955 to 1988, he was Professor of Ceramics at the University of Arizona in Tucson after founding their ceramics program. I came to know him during the campaign to try to defeat Arizona’s Prop 102. He was just one of those guys who seemed to know just about everyone, and no one he knew could ever be an enemy.

Last October, he was selected to be the Grand Marshal for Tucson’s Pride parade. (Tucson holds its parade in October as a concession to the typically scorching 105+ degree summer temperatures.) The UofA’s Arizona Daily Wildcat featured Maurice’s honor with a good description of his  journey:

Grossman was a UA professor from 1955 to 1989 and started the three-dimensional arts program in the Art Department during that time. “I’m very proud of what I accomplished and am still acknowledged when I’m on campus,” Grossman said. “I loved my students; I love teaching. In a way I’m still teaching.”

Grossman said he lived the first part of his life trying to determine who he was. He got married in his 20s, and had two children with his wife, who died in 1978.

“Like most gay men, I was trying to understand more about myself,” Grossman said. “At that time, in my 20s, I met a very beautiful and lovely woman and we fell in love.”

Though he was married and in love with his wife until she died, Grossman said he knew he was gay before then. In 1978 Grossman became more politically active in the gay community. He volunteered with Wingspan and Stonewall Democrats in Tucson. He waited a few years before he told anyone he was gay.

“When I told (my children), they knew; they said, ‘we’ve known for years,’” Grossman said.

Grossman said there was no real fallout or loss of friendships because of his revelation.

If you had the pleasure of knowing Maurice, you’d understand why.

The thing that impressed me about him is that he didn’t think to bother about slowing down. Age was an occasional nuisance but never a hindrance. And nothing was going to get in the way of his good cheer. He remained very active in the LGBT community and in the local arts scene. The Dinnerware Gallery in 2007 threw a fifty-year retrospective for him to coincide with Maurice’s 80th birthday.

There are a lot of sad people here in Tucson today.

Sunday Driver: El Tiradito

Jim Burroway

September 27th, 2009

The Barrio HistoricoTucked away south of downtown Tucson lie the last remnants of the old Barrio Historico. The Barrio is the original Mexican neighborhood that was established at about the time of the Gadsden Purchase, when the entire area changed hands from Mexico to the United States. Tucson’s original barrio was decimated by the short-sighted urban renewal wave of the 1960s, but what remains is still the largest and best preserved collection of old adobe Sonoran-style building in the U.S.

It is said that the Barrio is inhabited by countless ghosts from its violent past. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but there is one legend from the old Barrio that is worth mentioning. The details of that legend are very sketchy, but it goes like this: sometimeThe Barrio Historico before the turn of the twentieth century there was an illicit love affair between a man and a married woman. It was an affair that was kept hidden for a very long time, but at some point the woman’s husband found out about it and murdered the man.

Because the murdered man was a sinner in the eyes of the Church when he died, he was denied a Catholic burial at the church’s cemetery. His body was barred from consecrated ground. So he was instead buried underneath his home somewhere. Today, that legend holds, he lies there still, somewhere within the crumbling walls of that old adobe home.

El Tiradito

Whatever happened, one thing we know. The community took pity on the young man and today the brick walls which stand in for his unconsecrated grave have been consecrated by popular acclaim as a makeshift shrine known as El Tiradito (“the little castaway” or “the little discarded one”).  Over the years, people have come from all over to pray at the shrine, both for the murdered lover and for others who have become lost to them. El TiraditoThey leave small photographs, milagros, and other small tokens representing their prayer requests around the old fireplace which is now a revered nicho, and sometimes they’ll write their prayers down on small scraps of paper and leave them in the cracks of the crumbling adobe walls. And always they leave behind lit candles, typically those candles that you’ll find in Mexican grocery stores in South Tucson with images of saints printed on the sides. It is said that if you leave a lit candle at nightfall and the candle is still burning in the morning, then your prayers will be answered.

Legends have a way of growing out of small kernels of facts while ignoring other facts. My friend Homer, an archeologist and local historian tells me that he remembers reading newspaper accounts from around the 1920s in which the shrine was moved a short distance to its present location. He also says that nobody has been able to uncover historical records to verify the legend. But he also says that territorial newspaper accounts from the 1800s are full of stories about husbands murdering the paramours of their wives. Arizona was especially violent in those days and living was hard. As many as a quarter of the people who died in the 1870s met a violent end. And even today, the remains of dead bodies turn up every few years or so in unexpected places underneath streets and sidewalks whenever a reconstruction project is taking place.

But whatever the actual facts may be, legends and myths have a way of speaking to greater truths that register in the hearts of those who hold them as true. Legends lift us from the world of the mundane and carry us to the plane of aspirations and ideals. And it’s those greater ideals embodied by El Tiradito which fascinates me. This shrine, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is reputed to be the only known shrine in America dedicated to a sinner buried in unconsecrated ground. Whether that is true or not, a shrine dedicated to the memory of a sinner is a very odd thing. Shrines are the sorts of thing we’re more erect for reserve to heroes.

By all traditional understandings of morality of the day, the husband should be seen as the victim. He was the one who was wronged by his wife and her lover. And according to the frontier mores of the day, he was entirely within his rights to shoot the interloper. In fact, frontier justice demanded such an honor killing. By all rights, the man commemorated by this site would be looked upon as the villain. He’s the one who messed around with another man’s wife. But here, it’s the wife’s husband who is reviled. Why is that?

Candles and notes left at El Tiradito

Clearly those who first carried the memory of the murdered lover knew more than we do today. What was it about the love between the murdered man and the married woman that touched their hearts? Was the woman’s husband cruel to her? Malicious to others? Was he a drunk all the time? Did he beat her? Cheat on her?

And what of the poor soul who was murdered? We can safely say he was a poor soul, otherwise his memory wouldn’t have been so lovingly tended. He clearly is the sympathetic one in the story. Why is that? Was he particularly kind? Generous of spirit? More to the point, was he the one she was meant to love and be loved by in return?

Who knows? All that we do know is that this man, the one who was reviled by the proper authorities of the day — he is now the folk hero, the one who is the beneficiary of generations of prayers and tender thoughts.

Mural depicting the legend of El Tiradito

We are all familiar with the “love that dares not speak its name,” but here we have a man whose name is no longer spoken and is therefore unknown to us. El Tiradito at nightAnd so we arrive at the greater thing which, I think, this legend represents and which no factual historical record can touch. In his anonymity, an unknown man is remembered, and he is loved because he dared to pursue a love that was prohibited to him. Yet in his pursuit of a forbidden love, his love achieved a sort of immortality that has long outlived him.

Many times love cannot be constrained by the rigid boundaries of what is considered proper, nor by the limits of a premature death. This love broke through all of those boundaries and its effects have endured beyond death and memory. It has pushed forward through the centuries and burns still today, flickering tentatively like the candles at El Tiradito, precisely because others have carefully tended it through the night so that it may greet the dawn once more.

BREAKING: Lesbian Couple Obtain Marriage License In Arizona

Jim Burroway

February 12th, 2009

In what was supposed to be a demonstration on National Freedom to Marry day yielded a surprising turn of events for one Tucson couple (KGUN9):

A demonstration to make a point about same sex marriage led to a surprise at the Pima County Courthouse Thursday.  As part of what’s called Freedom to Marry day, same sex couples around the country attempted to get marriage licenses. Two men say the clerks turned them down after they crossed out female on the forms and replaced it with male, but two women walked out with license in hand.  The couple says they made it clear they were both women but did not try to cross out the word male.  Superior Court Clerk Patti Noland says she doesn’t ask clerks to verify gender. She says she regards the couple’s application as a fraud.

Arizona voters passed Proposition 102 last November, which added a constitutional amendment which restricts marriage to a man and a woman.

Here’s some amateur video of the some reactions of disbelief:

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The couple have been identified only as Theresa and Sheri. They have been together for two years. According to Rainbow Footsoldiers:

Clerk of Court claims that the couple lied about both being women and that the license was issued as a result of  “fraud.” This is not true. Michael and I were being denied a license at the same time two windows away. Originally the couple filled out a form with the same information we did by scratching out the gender portion. Then they returned for a second form that they filled out without the scratch out. Neither appear to be a man and they clearly told the clerk they were both female and she issued the license with her supervisor watching.

Also, Marriage Equality USA has consulted a local family lawyer who says that the license application in Pima County is not legal as the statute does not require someone to swear to their gender. Therefore, the license should be valid because the form exceeds the statute laying out how the form should be worded.

I’m no lawyer, but I doubt that “local family lawyer’s” reasoning will get very far in court.

Another Super Bowl Wardrobe Malfunction

Jim Burroway

February 2nd, 2009

While Arizonans are nursing the close loss of their beloved Cardinals in yesterday’s Super Bowl, Tucson-area Comcast subscribers are talking about a very different ending to the game:

A short clip of a pornographic movie cut into a Comcast broadcast of the Super Bowl in homes in and around Tucson. Officials at Comcast confirmed that its signal was interrupted during the Super Bowl, but the company is still working to figure out how porn broke into its cable feed. Engineers at Comcast will be working throughout the night to determine what happened, said Kelle Maslyn, a Comcast spokeswoman.

The Star newsroom erupted with calls from irate viewers shortly after 7:30 p.m. who said that the porn cut into the broadcast just after Cardinals player Larry Fitzgerald scored a touchdown on a pass from Kurt Warner to give the Cardinals the lead with less than two minutes in the game. Callers said that the clip showed a woman unzipping a man’s pants and included full frontal male nudity.

We’re Dish subscribers, so I missed this particular “interception.” But it sure is the hot topic of conversation at work this morning.

PFOX Billboard Removed

Jim Burroway

December 26th, 2008

A couple of weeks ago, complaints began to pour in over a billboard for PFOX, which was put up as a “public service” by Clear Channel Outdoors along the I-19 corridor in Tucson. Fortunately, Wingspan, Tucson’s LGBT community center, was able to get the billboard removed, but without an explanation of why it was put up in the first place. Here’s the KVOA-TV report:


[Hat tip: Jason Cianciotto at Wingspan]

Heterosexual Menace: Christian Missionary Impregnates Daughter

Jim Burroway

December 22nd, 2008

Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren recently compared same-sex marriage to incest. That was taken as an insult by gay activists. Maybe we misunderstood him. Maybe it was meant to be a compliment:

A Christian missionary who impregnated his 17-year-old daughter was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison Monday. The 44-year-old man was convicted by a Pima County [Arizona] jury last month of four counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of child abuse. According to court documents, the daughter called the Tucson Police Department last summer and told detectives that her father had been sexually abusing her since the age of 12.

The girl said that her father and mother were Christian missionaries who traveled from state-to-state and much of the abuse had occurred in Colorado and Arizona.

Oh, and get this:

Her mother learned of the abuse by reading her diary, but instead of confronting the father, the girl said her mother threw her diary out of a car window.

…She said her father told her God told him to have sex with her and she should think of him as her husband. Her father also often quoted Scriptures during the acts.

But we’re the ones posing a danger to the “5,000 year old institution.”

You can read more about the Heterosexual Agenda here.

[Hat tip: Homer]

Tucson Protest

Jim Burroway

November 15th, 2008

Tucson got a jump on the Join the Impact protests taking place this morning all across America with a protest last night.  Tucson’s protest against the defeat of Proposition 102 began in front of the county courthouse, where marchers gathered before their walk to La Placita Plaza for a rally.

The timing of the march was quite ironic. There are Justice of the Peace precincts located throughout Pima County, but if you actually wanted to be married in Pima County’s historic courthouse by the Justice of the Peace, the day to do that was Friday. So as nervous couples gathered at the courthouse entrance to await their turn before the Judge, an estimated 1,000 demonstrators were milling about under the courthouse dome to await the start of the rally.

The march got underway at dusk, ending at a rally at La Placita Plaza where Wingspan Executive Director Jason Cianciotto debuted Wingspan’s Families You Know campaign. The goals of the campaign is to “raise awareness, confront prejudice, and begin a conversation where all families are respected, valued, and not exploited for short-term political gain.”

Tucson To Get First Lesbian Housing Development

Jim Burroway

August 14th, 2008

Olivia Community I’ve often remarked to visitors about how open Tucson is for LGBT people. We really don’t have anything resembling a “gayborhood” here, but you see gay people everywhere you go. I once manned a booth at our local gay pride where we asked people to place pushpins on a map of Tucson representing where they lived. By the end of the day, there was nary a street or neighborhood untouched, and there were very few recognizable clusters in between.

One familiar company wants to literally build on that spirit:

Olivia Communities will be a 334-unit resort-style living community in Tuscon, Ariz. Although anyone can purchase a home, the company is targeting lesbians. “My whole vision of this has always been about creating community and creating a place where we can not only be free… but also the kind of community where you’re really connected with the people there and feel comfortable and happy in your environment,” said Judy Dlugacz, president and founder of Olivia Companies.

What makes this community unique, Dlugacz said, will be the social aspect. Women from their 20s to their 80s have put down deposits on condos in the development, though the most women fall in the 55- to 70-year-old age group. Olivia plans to have a full-time events coordinator who will bring in live entertainment, including comedy events and film festivals, and who will coordinate tea dances and other parties. Group excursions will be arranged to nearby locations like Las Vegas and Mexico.

Interest in the new development has been fairly high so far. Olivia has received 40 deposits and hundreds if inquiries since announcing the project in July. Construction begins when 400 deposits have been received.

Cindy Jordan-Nowe, co-chairwoman for City of Tucson Commission on GLBT issues, believes this will be a good fit for Tucson. “Tucson is a very inclusive community, years beyond other places in the country as far as embracing diversity and accepting and protecting LGBT people,” Jordan-Nowe said.

Update: The proposed development will be at the intersection of Williams and Craycroft. It appears to be the site of an already existing apartment complex, which I presume they intend to renovate and turn into condos. In the greater scheme of things, it’s not a particularly scenic part of town, but its central location could be a draw — and it’s just three and a half miles from Tucson’s favorite saphic bar, Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness.

LaBarbera Award: Perennial AZ Candidate Joe Sweeney’s “Genital Drives” and Mexican Whorehouses

Jim Burroway

July 18th, 2008

Joe Sweeney

It’s time to give Oklahoma a bit of a rest. Today’s LaBarbera Award winner comes from my own back yard, right here in Tucson, Arizona. And there is no better recipient than our very own 13-time candidate and zero-time winner for Congress, Republican Joe Sweeney.

Arizona has a non-presidential primary coming up on September 9, and Republican candidates Joe Sweeney and Gene Chewning are running for Congressman Raul Grijalva’s congressional seat. Sweeney and Chewning sat down with reporters from the Tucson Citizen for a videotaped interview. This was Sweeney response when he was asked to give his position on the proposed anti-marriage amendment:

Sweeney: Yeah, I wouldn’t have a problem supporting that. I think you just can’t have two generations that are so confused about their genital drive or sexuality that they don’t know whether they’re coming or going. You can’t just add to that. It’s like pouring gasoline on a fire when you let this kind of nonsense going on and on.

And it goes back all the way to Sodomite statutes they had over in England back in the 1530′s. It was a felony. They’d put you in prison for a year if you conducted that kind of behavior.

Q: Was that good?

Sweeney: Yeah. Sure, they needed to do that. Otherwise you’d have even more chaos. People get addicted to these strange ways of exercising their genital drives. Once it becomes addictive, you’ve got a real problem, social problem.

Actually, when England enacted it’s anti-sodomy statutes in the 1500′s the penalty was death. Just so you know.

But that’s not the only lunacy coming from Sweeney’s mouth. It seems that when he thinks of homosexuals, he thinks of “genital drives” and whorehouses in Mexico. I really don’t know how anyone except Sweeney himself can make any sense of this, so I’ll just leave you with this video excerpt and relevant transcript without comment. Unfortunately , the video ends before the good part about whorehouses, but you can see the full video on the Tucson Citizen’s web site.

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Sweeney: Yeah, you know, this Sodomite behavior is not marriage. It’s just, you can’t go with that, I mean, we’ve got a society that was founded on the principles of Christian doctrine, and that’s what you’ve got to go with. That’s what made this country, an ideology worth repeating.

Q: Actually, the country was founded on deist principles.

Sweeney: Well, it’s a deism that’s supported by some sense of revelations. Some sense that, that well over there was witched. That’s a sense of revelation. Do you see what I’m trying to say? We’ve got dogmatic theology and theistic theology and all that, but we also have the primacy of revelation theology that a lot of times is neglected by what I call “low church,” people that don’t understand the elevation of revelation theology.

Q: So, again I’m going to ask the same question I asked Mr. Chewning. Basically, a secular reason why two consenting adults of the same sexual orientation should not be married or allowed to be married.

Sweeney: Well because it’s addictive and it creates social chaos, social problems.

Q: Just out of curiosity, what would you base that on?

Sweeney: Well I would base that on the fact that people come together with their genital drives, and they either bridle their genital drives — and that’s what a marriage contract is supposed to be about — or they just go around acting like they can go whoring down in Nogales or prostituting anywhere they want, they can do whatever they want with their bodies. They don’t have any higher responsibility other than their own gratification. [Note: The video snippet above ends here; the full video continues with the following] Hedonism, which is maximizing pleasure over pain. And that’s what happens at Nogales every night when they go down there whoring and causing all the social strife. Now they got those kids in the whorehouses in Nogales coming up here to Tucson to be anchor babies. You know I’ve witnessed that stuff.

Q: Okay, so there’s another question following that. You guys both have said marriage should be between a man and a woman. What about a transgender person who used to be a man, now became a woman and wants to marry a man.

Sweeney: Well, I’ve got a friend like that. And… you know… That’s what he wants to do with his social activity and his life, his social functioning, that’s up to him, you know? But to say that we have to validate that, the rest of society has to validate that kind of behavior, you know, let him conduct his behavior the way that he’s going to conduct his behavior. You know, I don’t agree with prostitution in Mexico, but they have laws that say it’s a way of functioning, socially functional society five feet the other side of the border that allows that to happen. We think the repercussions of that totally outweigh the responsibilities.

Q: Just out of curiosity, what do you think that homosexuals have to do with whorehouses in Mexico?

Sweeney: Oh, I don’t know. We’ve got the only Southwest weekly newspaper, we’ve got more homosexuals down here than we’ve got a lot of other kinds of people.

Q: Again, what does that got to do with whorehouses in Mexico?

Sweeney: Well, what happens is you get what I call a hedonistic attractiveness to do anything and everything with your genital drive . ….

Q: Again, are the homosexuals frequenting the whorehouses?

Sweeney: I wouldn’t be surprised. Anything can happen around this town. We’ve got gay bars down on Fourth Avenue …

Sweeney ran for Congress twelve times before as a Democrat, a Republican, a Democrat, a New Alliance Party member and then Republican again, and he’s lost every time. Last year he captured the Republican nomination and the local party did everything they could to distance themselves from this gadfly. He’s just one of those people you can always count on around here to give the local elections a bit of, ah, color.

Chewning, believe it or not, may lose the primary to Sweeney this year on Sweeney’s name recognition alone. Not that Chewning is any kind of a political rocket scientist himself, if this video is any indication. Something about marrying first cousins or German Shepherds. At least Sweeney is creative.

Fortunately, the 7th is a very safe district for Rep. Grijalva.

All of you Oklahomans out there — feel better now?

Welcome to Tucson, Jason Cianciotto

Jim Burroway

April 14th, 2008

From this morning’s Arizona Daily Star:

Jason CianciottoJason Cianciotto has been named the new executive director of Tucson’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community center. Cianciotto is a former member of the youth group and a grant writer.

… He most recently served as research director for The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Policy Institute in New York City. He also was the Task Force’s primary spokesman at press conferences.

Tucson is pretty small as cities go. When including the suburbs — and every scorpion and rattlesnak — our population just barely made it to over a million recently. But Tucson’s Wingspan LGBT community center rivals community centers in cities four times its size. (Phoenix still doesn’t have one. Heh, heh!)

Wingspan celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year, but its roots go back to the late 1970′s following the murder of Richard Heakin. The community’s horror over that hate crime transformed Tucson, making it one of the first cities in the country to pass anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation. Anti-violence programs remain a core part of Wingspan’s work, but it has branched out to include youth groups, community outreach, health and wellness programs, senior programs, and transgender support and advocacy.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Jason a few times. I’m sure he’ll do a wonderful job with Wingspan.

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