A Symbol of Southwestern Wilderness

Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene. It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (Public Law 92-195)

By Steve Miller

Think of it as a bill of rights for horses. This act ensures their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness – unless they live along the Salt River.

Public outrage ensued earlier this month when the US Forest Service announced that they were going to dispose of feral horses along the Salt River. Most people rattled their sabers and some even went to court to stop the USFS from doing anything stupid. I use the word “stupid” because their announcement, which left precious little time for intervention or challenge, stated that the horses that weren’t claimed by owners, if there were owners, would be rounded up and “…sold at public sale may be sold at private sale or condemned and destroyed, or otherwise disposed of.”

wild horsesBoth of Arizona’s US Senators and the Governor weighed in on the issue in support of the horses. A conservation group supporting the horses, the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group, proposed some alternative solution to eradicating these beautiful animals from the landscape, but that fell upon deaf ears at the USFS. The news media was abuzz with stories of the impending doom of the wild horses and all of the effort being made to stop the Forest Service from removing them.

It seems like a no-brainier. Everyone loves the horses. Nobody can come up with a good reason to remove them except for the lame “we are not authorized to manage wild horses” excuse given by the USFS. Look, these horses are completely self-supporting. They aren’t hurting anything… or are they? Continue reading

US – Cuba Relations: A Failure of Leadership

By Steve Miller

Yesterday, the United States opened an embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961.   For some, it was an event that brought about a warm fuzzy feeling of friendship for many. However, even an untrained observer could detect a chill surrounding each diplomatically chosen word and carefully choreographed action at the embassy’s opening ceremony.

To me, this whole thing is reminiscent of a couple of 5th graders, standing in the principal’s office after a fisticuffs on the playground, and forced to shake hands and make up. They do, but it’s reluctant and without ceremony. It’s the epitome of hypocrisy that the United States can broker peace deals in the Middle East when and at the same time support continued animosity with one of their closest neighbors.

Havana, Cuba 33 The icy winds blowing across the Caribbean aren’t just coming from one direction. While the US made it known that they want to see democratic reforms and human rights improvements before they join any group hugs with the Cubans, Raul Castro stepped on his dick by making a statement that the United States owed Cuba millions of dollars for the damage that the American-imposed embargo caused to the Cuban economy.   An opportunity to gain favor with the most powerful economic influence in the world was just flushed down the toilet. Continue reading

American Justice – Hollywood Style

By Steve Miller

How does an illegal lane change warrant a trip to jail? No, there wasn’t any impairment. There wasn’t a weapon, an outstanding warrant, or any drug possession involved. We’re talking about someone who’s going the speed limit, changes lanes, and forgets to signal the change.

Imagine this: Within seconds of changing lanes, your rear view mirror lights up with red and blue flashing lights. You’re not sure why but you immediately pull over to the curb as you’re supposed to do. Nervously, you light up a cigarette as you wait to hear why you’re being stopped. Minutes later, you have an officer screaming at you, then ordering you out of your car. Seconds after that, as righteous indignation turns to terror, you’re ordered at gunpoint to the curb.dontshoot_590_447

A really pissed off cop with a 9mm pistol pointed at you screams for you to get on the ground. Before you can comply, he smashes your face into the dirt.

You’re probably thinking that this couldn’t happen to you. After all, you’re not a criminal.   You’re not black. You’re an American citizen on US soil.  The black lady in the incident that I am talking about didn’t commit a crime either. Her transgression wasn’t even a misdemeanor or a violation of a civic ordinance. It was a traffic infraction of the very least significance.

And don’t think this doesn’t happen to white people too. It does. It’s just that when it happens to blacks, it’s more likely to make the news.   Media scrutiny over cases like these is bringing to light a growing problem in our country, which is disregard for due process and civil liberties by authorities. It’s not a new problem but it’s one that we’re finding is more prevalent that most would imagine. Continue reading

Fifteen Dollars? No, Give Them a Fish Instead.

by Steve Miller

In 1968, when I graduated from high school, the minimum wage was $1.60 per hour. Working a 40-hour week, a minimum wage earner would earn about $3,328 per year. The economy was different then; gasoline was around 35 cents per gallon and the median household income was just under $8,000 per year.  In today’s dollars, adjusted for inflation, that dollar sixty works out to around $7.75 per hour. It wasn’t a livable wage then and it isn’t now, nor was it ever meant to be.

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Fish: The cure for poverty in America.

Let’s go back a few centuries and look at when government first got into the business of regulating a worker’s wage. King Edward III, in 1349, issued a decree setting a maximum wage. It seems that the Black Plague had wiped out most of the work force and the short supply of workers drove up the demand. Consequently, wages skyrocketed, putting a dent in the good king’s wallet along with that of other wealthy landowners who depended on serfs to work their land. Setting a ceiling on what a worker could demand as compensation, and also what an employer could pay, put things back in perspective and kept the rich wealthy and the poor underpaid. So much for supply and demand. Continue reading

ED3 versus Common Sense

by Steve Miller

By the end of last month, more than 200 Maricopa residents applied for permits to beat ED3s imposed solar installation deadline of July 1.  That should provide some idea of how much demand there is from residents to use free energy from the sun versus paying ED3 one of the highest electric utility rates in the state.

Unilaterally,solar dollars over the vocal objections of myself and others, Electrical District No. 3 initiated a policy of only 30 solar conversions per month.  Why?  To protect their revenue source.  In addition to throttling solar progress,  ED3 also raised their fixed recovery cost from 70 cents to $3 – a more than 200 percent increase.

The solar installation providers haven’t screamed too loud – yet.  The 30-per-month policy was the best promotion for solar sales yet resulting in a windfall of new customers.  As with anything where the supply is limited, customers literally threw themselves at solar companies to get in before the deadline.  Year-to-date, solar permits in Maricopa are over 400 percent higher than they were this time last year. Continue reading

Censorship Kills Ideas. Stupidity Prevents Them.

by Steve Miller

“I’m gay, I’m a Latino, and I’m a senator,” said Steve Gallardo, Maricopa County Supervisor, his voice quavering with emotion. “And it’s okay.”

Last March, Gallardo decided to put it all out on the table and let people know what he really thought. “It’s time to let people know about me. And to send people a message.,” he said. Apparently it’s okay to send a message if you’re gay and Latino, according to Gallardo, but it’s not okay if you’re white and straight.

img_7444Gallardo’s tearful appearance calling for the City of Phoenix to deny Donald Trump a venue to speak his mind aired on local news channels yesterday. You could see the emotion in his face, boiling with rage, as he called upon the city to not rent meeting space in the Phoenix Convention Center to “The Donald”. Why? Because, in his opinion, his message was filled with hate.

Does Gallardo really think that the city should deny renting a venue to a presidential candidate based solely on his political message?  Maybe he also thinks that the politician of the 20th century should be removed from his soap box and banned from the park because his message wasn’t politically correct.

What Gallardo is calling for is censorship.  Censorship is the control of the information and ideas circulated within a society and it has been a hallmark of dictatorships throughout history. FCC censors made sure that nothing related to homosexuality made it on the airwaves through the early days of television.  Do you think that freedoms such as gay marriage would have ever taken place if those ideas would have continued to be suppressed by the government today? Continue reading

Home of the Brave, Land of the Incarcerated.

by Steve Miller

Sometime in the near future, President Obama is expected to issue executive orders freeing dozens of federal prisoners locked up on nonviolent drug offenses. Once this has been done, he will have commuted more sentences in a single action than any president has in nearly half a century.

I am not a progressive Democrat but I agree completely with what he’s doing. We should get rid of long sentences and mandatory minimums – especially for nonviolent drug offenses.

prisonThe United States has less than five percent of the world’s population yet we have twenty-four percent of the world’s prison population. According to the Department of Justice, over seven million people were are in prison, on probation, or on parole. In Arizona, over one percent of the adult male population is locked up.

The result of the war on drugs in particular has been explosive growth in our prisons. It has accomplished nothing but to generate a whole plethora of social problems when inmates, who are ill-equipped to deal with society after long periods of incarceration, are finally released. Continue reading

Every Breath you Take, Every Move you Make…

by Steve Miller

Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the Internet we now find that Big Brother is alive, well, and reading your messages.

A bill is working its way through the U.S. Senate, having just been approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee, that would require social media sites to report what they consider to be terrorist activity.

Let’s pause for a moment and consider the definition of terrorism. According to the dictionary, it’s “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” In actuality, according to 18 U.S.C. § 2331, however, there is a more detailed version that is probably more suited to what the government is trying to accomplish.

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Nevertheless, the US Government is asking private companies to spy on their customers and report suspicious activity. It’s not the first time this has happened. In Los Angeles and Sacramento, California, city ordinances required gun shops to keep a log of who was buying ammunition. The police then cross referenced the list with those who may be prohibited from owning a firearm, used the information to obtain search warrants, and effected multiple arrests. That’s okay if you believe the end justifies the means. Continue reading

This One Won’t Come Down Without a Fight

By Steve Miller

It’s too bad that so many different interests have chosen to exploit the tragic shooting in Charleston, South Carolina as an excuse to ban the Confederate flag from display in public buildings. Some blacks think it promotes hate and racism. White politicians have jumped on the band wagon because it will get them black votes. Everyone’s in it for something.

As the flag of the old American South comes under attack for being a symbol of racism and bigotry, we should look beyond the symbol to find the roots of racism and hatred.antenna flag 2

Old Glory is every bit as much a symbol of racism as the Stars and Bars. There were slaves in the United States when the country was founded.  Slavery remained legal until 1863 – and not just in the south. Northerners enjoyed buying tobacco and cotton at rock bottom prices because there wasn’t any labor cost for planting and harvesting. Slavery was just as prevalent in the industrial north as it was in the agricultural south.

After the Civil War, United States military units were still segregated. Jim Crow “separate but equal” laws flourished in modern-day America until the 1960s under the Stars and Stripes. Black Americans didn’t even get the right to vote until 1965 were kept “in their place” until long after the Confederate flag represented little more than something used to decorate the red Dodge Charger in the Dukes of Hazzard. Continue reading

Read my Lips: If it Don’t Move, Tax it.

by Steve Miller

Over thirty-five years ago, Arizona voters passed a measure that put a one percent cap on property tax. Knowing from experience that our elected political heroes at the county level would tax the population out of existence if given the chance, voters did what they could to make sure this didn’t happen. Own a home worth $150,000? Your tax bill won’t exceed $1,500 per year. Simple as that.

If the actual cost of services exceeded that amount, the state picked up the tab. Not anymore. Now, without a cap in place, the county gets to charge whatever they feel like they can collect from the property owners. Oh yeah, I have heard it put this way:

Taxes“Ducey and the Legislature decided to eliminate that cap, which basically passes that additional tax burden to cities and counties”.

That’s pure, unaltered, USDA approved bovine fecal matter, to state it nicely. Tax is tax. The state keeps what they’re already getting, from whatever sources. They give less of what they receive to the counties, which then decide to get it from the homeowners, now that the cap on property tax has been eliminated. See how that works? Continue reading