Monday, November 30, 2009

Tough Night for a Tough Sheriff

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio faced a tough crowd and had a tough night Monday. “America’s Toughest Sheriff” sat down with three faculty members (and former journalists) at the Walter Cronkite School of Mass Communication and Journalism at Arizona State University for what ASU officials called a “Meet the Press” type interview. While the former journalists grilled the Sheriff, protestors (both for and against the Sheriff) outside shouted at each other. The anti-Sheriff protestors were able to make themselves heard inside the building.

Arpaio was his usual self. He refused to answer some questions (citing pending litigation) and bobbed and weaved like a seasoned pugilist on others. It was vintage Sheriff Joe. He didn’t answer questions he didn’t want to and blamed the media for the problems his department is facing.

About 45 minutes into the one hour program, things turned nasty when a group of ASU students started singing (Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” of all things), effectively drowning out the evasive Sheriff. People who wanted to hear the Sheriff started shouting at the impromptu a capella choir and tempers flared. The program ended early as the Sheriff was escorted from the stage.

The Sheriff’s opponents treated this like a victory. But really the only winner was the Sheriff. He managed to walk away from some hard questions without answering them and emerged from the evening as the victim, a card he will no doubt play in future media appearances.  

The photos from top: Sheriff Arpaio makes a point during the interview, a pro-Sheriff protestor shouts at an anti-Sheriff protestors outside while, inside, an anti-Sheriff protestor celebrates his early departure. 

There are more photos available from ZUMA Press and in my PhotoShelter archive.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

"Black Friday” is supposed to be the official start of the US shopping season that leads up to Christmas. Two of the widely held myths around Black Friday are that it’s the day that retailers start to make a profit and that it’s the busiest shopping day of the year. 

Neither is true. In terms of dollars spent, the Saturday before Christmas is busier. And no business can survive if it loses money for 11 months a year. Although the strength of the retail season is very dependent on the holiday shopping season and a bad Christmas season can doom a retailer that’s already on the edge. 

Black Friday has achieved quasi holiday status in the US. Many people already have  off the day after Thanksgiving. Most businesses run on a skeleton crew. The day has become one that celebrates the power of conspicuous consumption. I’m not sure celebrating conspicuous consumption is good thing. It’s largely what got us into this mess. People bought homes they couldn’t afford with credit they didn’t merit. Then they accessarized the new home with furniture, big screen TVs and new cars. All bought on credit. The next thing you know the bubble burst and we’re in the worst recession we’ve been in since the “Great Depression” of the 1930’s. 

But no matter how bad our economy is, there are places it’s far worst. To put our consumption into perspective, about 7,000 people died of hunger and complications related to hunger during the 7 hours I was photographing and editing my photos of Americans buying toys.  

The photos from top: A man waits for his wife in a Victoria’s Secret store in Mesa. People stream into a Target store in Tempe. Women read a Black Friday sales flier in Tempe and a man watches the action in a Toys R Us in Mesa. 

Monday, November 23, 2009

Senator McCain Talks About Health Care

Sen John McCain had a town hall meeting about health care at North Phoenix Baptist Church this evening. Most of the 200 or so attendees were medical professionals from Phoenix area practices and most supported McCain and his take on health care reform.

The Senator called the Democrats’ proposal, HR 3962, a jobs killer that would lead to rationed health care. It’s the same argument Sen. Mitch McConnell used on the weekend talks shows. If I didn’t know better, I would suspect the McCain, McConnell et al of colluding on their “talking points.” Certainly they’re capable of independent thought? Aren’t they?

The Republicans keep telling people that the US has the best health care in the world and that the Democratic proposals will lead to “health care rationing.” But the GOP spokespersons leave out a couple of caveats:
  1. We have the best health care in the world for the people who can afford it. While the richest people in the developing world, in South Africa, India, Thailand or Mexico, come to the US for their health care, working and upper middle class people in the US go to those countries for life saving health care because they can’t afford it here, and
  2. We already have health care rationing here. That’s what happens when the insurance companies deny life saving coverage to their customers. And then delay the appeals process so long their customers die.
There are certainly reasons to be concerned about the Democratic health care proposal. It’s really expensive and doesn’t cover all of the people who need coverage. But I think it’s better than the Republican plan. The Republicans want to leave health care to the market and insurance companies to fix.

Leaving it to the market is how we got into this mess.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Diwali, The Indian Festival of Lights

Diwali is the Hindu Festival of Lights (it’s also a very funny episode of “The Office” penned by Indian-American Mindy Kaling).

The Indian community in Phoenix marks Diwali by sponsoring a festival of all things Indian. There’s traditional Indian dance, some Bollywood dancing, lots of great food, a parade presenting the diversity of India, and Indian games, like cricket (which I don’t understand) and chess (which I sort of understand but don’t play well).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Not Your Average Joe

Joe Biden, VPOTUS (Vice President of the US) was in Phoenix this morning. He spoke at a fund raiser for Gabby Giffords and Ann Kirkpatrick, a couple of Arizona’s Democratic congress women, and then hit the airport to talk about the economic stimulus package.

I’ve photographed a lot of political leaders. In the US it usually means showing up hours before the actual event, bringing a very long lens and then a lot of hurry up and wait. (It’s different in the developing world. In Mexico, I photographed then President Vicente Fox walking through my hotel lobby chatting with his friends. In Nicaragua, I walked up to and photographed Presidents Daniel Ortega and Hugo Chavez hanging out before a luncheon.)

But Biden’s event was remarkably relaxed. It’s the difference between being VPOTUS and POTUS. We walked into the room about 30 minutes before Biden and were able to use pretty short lenses. It was a lot more relaxed than any of the POTUS events I’ve covered. For his part, Biden didn’t disappoint. He was expressive and used his hands to punctuate his points. All in all, for what it was, a good morning.