Thursday, August 30, 2012

Still Dreaming

Women wait in line at Central High School to complete their paperwork to qualify for the Deferred Action program last weekend. 

Hundreds of Phoenix dreamers came to Central High School this weekend to get help with the paperwork they need to turn in to win "deferred action" status and keep their dreams of living in the US alive. 

At one point the line snaked through the school parking lot. For most of the people in line, Saturday at Central was just the first step in a long journey. There will be more meetings with lawyers, there's a mountain of paperwork that goes with deferred action status and the young immigrants don't want to make a paperwork error that could cost them their future. There will be meetings with DHS bureaucrats. There will be the wait to determine who wins deferred action status and who doesn't. 

And there's no guarantee that the program will actually go into effect or, if Mitt Romney wins in November, what's going to happen on Jan. 20 after he's inaugurated. He's indicated that he's opposed to the President's plan, but he hasn't put forward specifics on what he'd do. In a worst case scenario, the immigrants are afraid Romney's DHS would use the database being created during the application process to pursue and deport them. There are certainly elements in the GOP that favor such action

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Reaching Across the Aisle

CC Goldwater, granddaughter of Republican icon Barry Goldwater, talks to Richard Carmona in Barry Goldwater Memorial Park Wednesday morning. Carmona is a Democrat running for the US Senate. 

With the pesky primaries out of the way, the candidates are apply to focus on November's general election. One of the most interesting races in Arizona will be the US Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Jon Kyl. Jeff Flake, a long serving member of the House of Representatives, is running on the Republican side, and Carmona, a former Surgeon General, former Green Beret and former SWAT officer, is running on the Democratic side. Carmona, a genuine war hero, has an amazing resume, Flake has name recognition and a long history in Washington. Arizona is a very red state and Flake would seem to have the early advantage. But if Carmona can mobilize Democratic leaning constituencies like Hispanics and Native Americans and women turned off by the GOP platform and some of their comments on rape, he could score an upset. 

And that's where Carmona's press conference earlier today comes into play. With Barry Goldwater's daughter, granddaughter and great grandson standing by his side, Carmona announced that many of the Goldwater family were crossing the aisle to support the Democrat. 

There are more photos from the endorsement announcement in my archive

David Schweikert Clinches CD6

Rep. David Schweikert talks to a supporter during his victory party in Phoenix Tuesday night.

The primary battle between David Schweikert and Ben Quayle turned out to be the most interesting political battle of Arizona's 2012 primary season. Both men have strong conservative credentials and Tea Party leanings. Schweikert has experience (former country treasurer and state legislator), Quayle has name recognition (his father is former Vice President Dan Quayle). Quayle also brought baggage to the race. He helped create and then contributed to an adult oriented website called Dirty Scottsdale using the nom de plume "Brock Landers." In the end, I don't think his affiliation with cost him the election, but it certainly didn't help.   

Both were freshman Congressman thrown into the same district because of the redistricting process after the 2010 census, which is what set up their primary battle. 

Their race garnered national attention and was hard fought. Both men painted themselves as the true conservative and tried to paint the other as moderate, or worse, supporting the President's stimulus plan. 

Schweikert took an early lead in the vote count and maintained it through the night. Quayle conceded about 9:45PM, Schweikert claimed victory shortly afterwards. 

I started the night at Jeff Flake's victory party for the US Senate primary. Against a political newcomer, Flake was heavily favored to win, so I didn't wait there for actual results. I left Flake's party after I made a few photos. I drove to Quayle's party in Scottsdale and as soon as it became clear to me that Quayle was losing, I headed over to Schweikert's party. 

It was the right decision. Although the race tightened up through the evening, Schweikert won.

Anticipating victory, Schweikert moved casually through the large crowd in his campaign office, chatting with supporters, talking to reporters and monitoring election results. Because I've photographed him so often this summer, Congressman Schweikert knows me. He graciously let me photograph him in "behind the scenes" moments in his "command post" (where the candidates watch results come in) and in private phone moments with his opponent and closest advisors. It's the kind of access you only get when your subject knows you. 

I finished up at Congressman Schweikert's office about 10:15PM and finished editing about 3:30 Wednesday morning. 

It's Official: Jeff Flake is the Nominee

Jeff Flake, the newly minted candidate for US Senate, poses for photos with supporters at his home in Mesa this evening. 

Arizona held its primary election this evening. For many races, the primary election is the general election. Many of Arizona's legislative districts are not very competitive, and most of them favor Republicans, so whoever wins the primary skates through the general. 

Jeff Flake had to get past Wil Cardon in the Republican primary before he faces Richard Carmona in November's general election. 

Cardon is a political new comer. Flake is a veteran, having served in the US House of Representatives since the 1990's. The Flake family has deep roots in Arizona - the town of Snowflake is named after a relative, and the late Jake Flake, one of the most powerful speakers of the Arizona House of Representatives, was Jeff's uncle. In the end it wasn't close. Flake won and faces Carmona in November. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Hot Time in the Old Town

Sweat pours down Sarah Palin's face while she serves barbecue with Kirk Adams (right) during an Adams campaign event in Gilbert. 

It's always news when the "Mama Grizzly" comes to town. Monday she was in Gilbert to campaign for a select few Republican candidates running in congressional primaries. Arizona, especially the East Valley suburbs, is Tea Party country and anyone elected out of the East Valley is going to have strong Tea Partyesque leanings, so picking a candidate to support comes down more to personal likes and dislikes and less about actual policy positions.

Palin is supporting Kirk Adams, who is running against Matt Salmon, for Congressional District 5; long serving Congressman Jeff Flake, who is running against Wil Cardon, for US Senate and incumbent Rep. Paul Gosar (elected in the GOP sweep of 2010) who is facing two primary challengers. Only Adams was at the event. Flake and Gosar had other commitments.

The rally was at Joe's Farm Grill in Gilbert and it was outdoors.


In Arizona.

In August.

"Zonies" pride themselves on their ability to take the heat, kind of in the same way Minnesotans embrace winter's icy grip. But still, it was outdoors, it was 107˚ (that's about 42˚ for my friends in a Celsius world) and it was miserable. Palin delivered a short speech to the crowd. Even though many were wilting in the heat, they embraced her ideas and message.

After the speech, Palin and Adams served barbecue to the nearly one thousand people who waited patiently in 107˚ heat for a chance to meet "Mama Griz in Chief."

There are more photos from Gov. Palin's appearance in my archive.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Different Sort of Protest

Women march through central Phoenix demanding the right to go topless during a protest Sunday.

There was another march in Phoenix Sunday. Not for immigrants' rights. Not against the Sheriff. Not about unemployment. Not about the 99% or the 1%. 

Today, women (and some men) marched for the right to go bare chested in public. It was a part of a national day of action sponsored by the GoTopless organization. There were similar protests in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Austin (TX), New Orleans and other cities around the world

In Phoenix, women didn't want to run afoul of the law, so they put tape over their nipples. Men also taped over their nipples to show support for the women. 

I cover a lot of protests and marches. Normally there are the same three or four photographers, the local TV stations and myself covering these events. Today, for some reason, there were a boatload of photographers drawn to the protest like moths to a flame.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

In Pursuit of Truth

Reporters wait for lawyers to come out of the US federal courthouse in Phoenix during a hearing on SB1070. 

Photographers try to make pictures at a prayer vigil of people opposed to SB 1070 at the Arizona State Capitol. 

Who says journalism is a lonely profession? This is the crowd of journos waiting for someone, anyone, to talk to them after the SB 1070 hearing in federal court Tuesday. 

Lucky for us, the plaintiff's lawyers were very chatty and came over to us and talked about how the hearing went. 

Here are a few more photos of the media in action.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Photographing a Town Hall

A woman hugs US Sen. John McCain after a town hall meeting in Peoria, AZ, Thursday

Sen. John McCain had a town hall meeting in Peoria, a suburb about 20 miles northwest of Phoenix. He used the opportunity to talk about the importance of maintaining a strong military and repealing the health care reform bill passed by Congress a couple of years ago. 

At a time when many members of congress are pulling back on their public schedules, McCain still has a full schedule of town hall meetings and an active public schedule. 

Town hall meetings aren't usually very visual and photographing them can be a challenge. 

I've found that the photos that are most frequently used from town hall meetings aren't necessarily the most interesting pictures. The photos that you can count on being used are clean "mug" shots of the politician, tight on the face with a neutral expression. I make those photos at every town hall meeting or event with every politician. 

Then I work the room to make a variety of pictures I like. Very tight, using a 200mm lens while only five or six feet from the politician. Very loose, using a 24mm lens from the middle of the room, and a variety of in between photos. I use my 50mm f1.2 and 24mm f1.4 at f1.2 and f1.4 to get photos with that razor thin depth of field that I really like. 

I always arrive early and stay to the end. McCain, and most other congresspeople, interact with constituents and other elected officials before and after the event. These are usually the best photos, even if they're not the ones that get used. McCain's town hall meeting today was scheduled to go from 11:30AM until 12:30PM. I was there from 10:45AM until 1PM. 

One of the photos I like from the event was one I made as McCain walked up to the microphone at the press conference before the town hall meeting. The press conference was held in an art gallery and McCain was surrounded by the art while he stood alone at the microphone. It was a fleeting moment - gone in seconds when McCain was joined at the mic by a gaggle of West Valley politicians. 

The other photo I like is the one at the top of this blog entry. At the end of the town hall a woman approached McCain and chatted with him for a couple of minutes before he reached out and hugged her. That moment too was gone in an instant. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Back at the Courthouse

A solitary protester stands in front of the federal courthouse in Phoenix Tuesday. 

Arizona's tough anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, is back in the federal courts and opponents of the law are back on street. The US Supreme Court struck down most of the law in June but let stand section 2B, the so called "Papers Please" section, which calls for local law enforcement to check the immigration status of people they have to reason to believe might be in the country without documents.

Opponents of 1070 argue that the law is inherently unfair. That it lead to racial profiling of Latinos, more discrimination against Latinos and that Latinos will face more time in detention while their status is confirmed.

Thousands of people took to the streets in 2010, after the passage of the law. I was in Thailand when SB 1070 was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer and even in Thailand, passage of the bill and its signing into law was front page news.

In the midst of the Red Shirt protests, other journalists and Thais I met, when they learned I was from Arizona, asked me what was going on with SB1070. When I tried to explain the law as I understood it and how it wasn't that different from immigration laws in some parts of Europe or Thailand, the response was inevitably, "but it's America, you're supposed to be better than that." Our state was compared to apartheid South Africa, where black Africans were required to present their papers to move around the country.

Since then the protests have gotten smaller but no less impassioned. There were only a handful of protesters at the courthouse yesterday, most of them the "usual suspects" (to steal a line from the movie Casablanca) that I've photographed at the dozens of immigration protests that have taken place in Phoenix during the last five years. It's the same for Tea Party protests and rallies supporting SB1070, the crowds have gotten significantly smaller and most of the protesters are people I've photographed so often I know them by name.

Judge Susan Bolton is hearing this latest challenge to SB 1070. Judge Bolton heard the original complaint against the bill in 2010 and ruled against the state, a ruling that was upheld by the 9th Circuit of the Court of Appeals and mostly upheld by the Supreme Court. Trying to read a judge's mind can be a dangerous thing, but her past ruling, coupled by recent revelations that the bill's architect, Russell Pearce, had apparently racist motives, has bolstered the spirits of the law's opponents.

There are more photos from the small protest in my archive.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

No DREAM Deferred

Young people listen to immigration lawyers describe their options under President Obama's recently announced "deferred action" program, aka DREAM Act Lite, during a workshop on the plan in Phoenix Saturday. 

On June 15, President Obama announced that he would instruct the Department of Homeland Security to suspend the deportation of undocumented young people who meet very specific standards and that those young people would be able to get work permits and social security cards on a temporary basis (two years, but it's renewable). Some observers dubbed it "DREAM Act Lite." The announcement was met with widespread praise by immigration activists and supporters and condemnation by the right and Republicans. 

Immigrants are still trying to sort out what the plan means. There are a couple of things it won't do though. It's not an "amnesty" or a path to citizenship or a free pass. It doesn't benefit the immigrants' parents, siblings, friends or family members. The focus is very narrow.

There are very strict requirements to qualify. For example, immigrants can't have any felony or serious misdemeanor convictions, they must have a high school diploma or GED or be in high school, they must have been in the US continuously since their arrival here (i.e. no hopping back and forth across the border). The government is charging nearly $500 to apply for deferred action and the process is so daunting that most people are going to have to hire a lawyer to work with them on their applications, so they have to figure legal fees into the cost of the application.

Immigrants would have preferred Congress pass the real DREAM Act, but given the make up of the Congress and anti-immigrant stand of the Republicans, that will never happen. So this was about the best the immigrants could hope for.

There are more photos from the workshop in my archive.

Friday, August 17, 2012

There's an App for That

Another in a continuing series of blog entries on Thailand and preparations for my move. 

My main photo processing software is Lightroom, an application I've written about a couple of times. For the photojournalist in the field it does everything I need and more. But Lightroom is not the only application on my Macs.

I'm not a writer, but I sometimes have to write. Word processing and writing needs are handled by Pages, Apple's word processing app and a part of the iWork suite. Pages is fast, stable and complete. For a one person operation, it's perfect. It exports files as a Microsoft Word document, so when I'm writing for a client that wants Word files, I write in Pages and then export the finished piece to Word, formatting intact. Pages also opens Word files (there may be some formatting inconsistencies, ymmv) so you can share documents easily with others.

My spreadsheet requirements, which are very basic, are handled by Numbers, Apple's spreadsheet app and a part of the iWork suite. I don't think Numbers is quite as complete as Pages, but it's fast and easy, not something you can say about Excel. Numbers opens and exports .xls files, so it's compatible with Excel. I never had any issues with Numbers but heavy duty spreadsheet users might. When I was working at the Arizona Republic and doing a lot of driving, our mileage reports were submitted on an Excel spreadsheet. I converted mine to Numbers and used it for the last three years I worked at the paper and never had a problem.

I transmit photos to clients using ftp, File Transfer Protocol. My ftp client of choice is Transmit by Panic Software. I can't say enough about Transmit. There are lots of ftp clients, some free, some cheap. Transmit is $34 - definitely not free and not really cheap. But for $34 you get rock solid reliability from a company that has been developing for the Mac for a very long time. I've been using Transmit since version 1. It's one of the first pieces of software I install on a new computer. I've dabbled with other photo processing applications (including Aperture), tried other word processors and even used Excel for a while. I've never even thought about using another ftp client.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


A DREAMer listens to speakers at the Arizona Capitol Wednesday. 

DREAM Act (DREAM is an acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) supporters marched on the Arizona Capitol Wednesday afternoon after Gov Jan Brewer issued an executive order that would deny any public benefits to young people who otherwise qualify for "deferred action" because of their immigration status. The order would deny driver's licenses, in state tuition breaks for colleges and universities or any other public benefits to these young people who make up an important part of Arizona's cultural landscape. 

Across the country, Wednesday was a happy day. Thousands of people lined up in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and other places. 

But Brewer's action dampened spirits in Arizona. Instead celebrating, Arizona young people went back to the streets, chanting in military cadence, "We are the DREAMERS, the mighty, mighty DREAMERS" and "Yes, yes to education. No, no to deportation!" 

Brewer's action shouldn't have taken anyone by surprise. As Governor, she has relished every opportunity to metaphorically stick her finger in President Obama's eye

In January, she famously wagged her finger at the President while she scolded him. After the Supreme Court struck down most of SB1070, Arizona's tough anti-immigrant law, Brewer told the nation that the President told Arizona to "Drop dead." Every time an immigration issue comes up, Brewer doubles down on the side of the white right in an effort to strengthen her Tea Party credentials. This was no exception and the students' reaction, marching to the Capitol was equally predictable. 

There are more photos of the DREAMERS' march in my archive

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Need is Great

The assistant director of the Tolleson Food Bank (right) comforts a client during food distribution. 

More and more people are depending on the kindness of strangers. Tolleson, a suburb of Phoenix, is about 10 miles west of downtown. 

It was a farming community when we moved to Phoenix in 1999.  Cotton and melons grew in the fields that surrounded the town. Many of the town's original inhabitants were farm workers and the center of town, the downtown area if you will, is still mostly Latino, people who were drawn to Tolleson to work the fields or in the agricultural sector. In the early 2000's, developers bought up the farms and started raising houses instead of produce. 

People flooded into Tolleson and bought homes they couldn't afford with money they didn't have and lent to them by bankers who didn't care. Then the crash came, foreclosures skyrocketed and people who thought they were living the dream discovered they were trapped in a nightmare. 

Food bank use has soared as people's situation in life has deteriorated. One volunteer at the food bank in Tolleson told me use has more than doubled in recent years. 

I've been photographing food banks in the Phoenix area for years. I wish didn't have to, but without the food banks many people would go hungry. And without coverage, the quiet work the food banks do would go unnoticed and they would not be able to meet their ever expanding needs. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Honoring the Guru

A woman touches her forehead to the floor during Sunday services at the Guru Nank Dwara Ashram Sikh temple in central Phoenix.

It was a week ago that a gunman went into the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and opened fire with a semiautomatic handgun. He killed six and wounded four before taking his own life after a shootout with responding police officers.

The shooter, Wade Michael Page, was a known white supremacist. It's not known what provoked his attack on the worshippers but this is not the first time Sikhs have been targeted by racists in the United States.

I went to the Sikh temple in central Phoenix today to photograph Sunday services and I was struck by the genuine hospitality of everyone in the temple.

I got to the temple in the middle of their morning snack break and was immediately invited to sit down and enjoy some home made pakoras and gulab juman, those tasty little dough balls served with sugar syrup. They're kind of like round pancakes. Several people stopped to welcome me to their temple and explain how the service was conducted.

It was my first time in a Sikh religious service. Although there are no theological similarities between Sikhs and Catholics, there were certain structural similarities in the services.

Both start with singing of hymns, both have call and response prayers and readings from a sacred text and both include a small bite of food. For Catholics it's communion, which represents the Last Supper. For Sikhs it's prashaad, a sweet pudding of flour, honey, water and ghee (clarified butter), which represents the Guru's blessing.

There are more photos from Sunday's service at the temple in my archive.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Janmashtami in Phoenix

A boy dressed as the Lord Krishna waits to take the stage at Ekta Temple, a Hindu temple in Phoenix, on Sri Krishna Janmashtami, the day celebrated in the Hindu faith as the birthday of Lord Krishna. It's roughly analogous to Christmas in the Christian faith. 

One of the things I love about being a photojournalist is that my cameras gives me entry into the lives of others. There are times when we're called to bear witness to things no one should have to see (the ongoing massacres in Syria come to mind), but most of the time we're invited to witness the wonders of everyday life.

I went to the Ekta Temple Friday night to photograph Janmashtami. I wasn't familiar with the holiday, but I thought it would fit nicely with the work I've done on immigration and spirituality - the Virgin of Guadalupe, Buddhist Lent or the opening of a Hindu temple in Maricopa for example. I didn't call ahead or contact anyone, I just showed up.

I always arrive at events like this early. I don't want to walk in as it's starting and risk offending people, I want to be early enough to talk to folks, explain what I'd like to do and make sure it's okay to photograph, especially when I'm covering a religious event.

When I got to the temple, I talked to the priest and temple president, they invited me to stay and photograph whatever I wanted.

The celebration itself was quite different from Christian, Muslim or Buddhist celebrations I've photographed.

It was very free flowing - women sang religious songs while people chatted on their phones and children ran around.

People prayed at shrines and priests guided people in offerings while traditional dancers performed at the front of the temple (where the alter would be in a Christian church).

It was loud and happy and sensory overload. It was great.

There are more photos from Janmashtami in my archive.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Meeting the Candidate

Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ) talks to voters at a candidate forum in Scottsdale. 

The most interesting congressional race in Arizona this year is the Republican primary in Congressional District 6. It's pitting two conservative freshman Republicans - David Schweikert and Ben Quayle - against each other in a no holds barred race. Both men are very conservative. They originally represented separate neighboring districts but redistricting after the 2010 census threw them into the same district. (Although each claims the other is a carpetbagger who moved into the district, which is safely and staunchly Republican, after the redistricting process was completed.)

Schweikert frequently campaigns on the platform that the nation is facing a fiscal cliff and that the future is worse than we could imagine. 

Quayle rose to fame doing TV spots in his first race that called President Obama "the worst President in history." A claim he has since doubled down on. 

It's a difficult call for voters in CD6. Despite what they say about each other, both Quayle and Schweikert are staunch conservatives who have more in common than they do differences.

During the candidate forum, it was hard to identify any differences. Pro-life? Check. Repeal health care reform? Check, check, check and quadruple check. Protect gun owners' rights? Check. Oppose the President on every point? You betcha.

Ultimately who Republican voters choose in this suburban district is going to come down to who they like more. There are more photos of the forum in my archive.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Prayer for the Departed

Members of Arizona's interfaith community gather Tuesday night to pray for the victims of the massacre at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin last Sunday. 

About 60 people gathered at the Arizona Interfaith Movement offices in Phoenix last night for a brief prayer service in memory of the six people murdered by Wade Michael Page Sunday when the former soldier with racist beliefs attacked worshippers at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee. There were representatives from many of the Valley's religious traditions, Christian, Muslim, Scientologists, Bahais and other expressed thoughts for Page's victims.

The service was simple - no candles or music - just people holding hands in prayer. The service lasted less than 30 minutes. It was the first of several services in the Phoenix area this week for the victims of the massacre.

There are more photos of the service in my archive.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

And He Also Wants to be Our Senator

Wil Cardon (left) waits to speak at a campaign appearance in Gilbert Friday night. 

Arizona's primary season is entering the home stretch. Early ballots arrived in mail boxes this week and the actual election is August 28, so the candidates are doing all they can to connect with voters. Cardon is facing Jeff Flake for the US Senate seat being vacated by Jon Kyl (R-AZ).

I really enjoy covering politics, especially at this level. It can be hard to get a handle on the candidates' schedules because they're not usually doing big public rallies. Instead, they're meeting voters in private homes in groups of 10 to 20 (although there were nearly 100 people in the home in Gilbert to hear Cardon and Matt Salmon, a former Congressman running to get back into Congress) talk about the issues. The scope of the events tend to be more freewheeling and open. And access, the most important thing for a photographer is great. There's no back room for the candidates to escape to - they walk in the front door and are "on" the instant they arrive. Most of the photography is done with wider lenses - my 24, 40 and 50 and you're close enough that using a telephoto, like the 200, gives a very nice, very tight, image of the candidate's face.

The only downside is that it's normally quite dark - we're in a person's living room, not a professionally lit venue - but that's a small price to pay for a chance to see how the political process really works. (And, with modern digital cameras that can work at ISO 3200 or higher even the relative dark is not much of a problem.)

There are more photos from the Cardon - Salmon campaign event in my archive.

Friday, August 3, 2012

He Wants to be Our Senator

Dr. Richard Carmona, left, talks to a US Special Forces vet of the Vietnam War during a campaign town hall at an American Legion Post in Phoenix

The political season is in full swing. The Democrats sense a chance to win a Senate seat in Arizona and they've found a fascinating candidate to make it happen.

Whether you're a Democrat or Republican, Carmona has a compelling life story. Born into poverty, he served his country in combat and rose to the highest levels of public service. He's done more for our country than many presidential candidates, past and present. 

Dr. Richard Carmona dropped out of high school and joined the Army at 17. He volunteered for Special Forces and was turned down because he didn't have a high school diploma. So he went back to high school and got his GED. Then he joined Special Forces, became a combat medic and went to Vietnam. He was awarded two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, a Combat Medical Badge and other commendations for his service in the Army.

He came home from Vietnam and stayed in the reserves. While serving in the reserves Carmona went to Community College, eventually becoming a RN. Then he went to Medical School and graduated at the top of his class and became a general and vascular surgeon. He was recruited by the Tucson Medical Center and University of Arizona and started the regional trauma center at TMC. In his spare time he was a college professor and member of the Pima County Sheriff's Office SWAT Team. 

He was tapped by President George W. Bush to serve as the Surgeon General. And when your President calls, you serve.

He returned to Tucson after his tenure in DC and decided this year to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Jon Kyl. Two Republicans are locked in a bitter primary fight for the seat - Jeff Flake, a long serving Congressman from the East Valley and Wil Cardon, a businessman who used to work with the Flake campaign. It would be unusual for Arizona to elect a Democrat to the Senate. I think the Democrats are hoping the GOP primary fight turns into a caged death match that fatally damages both candidates. That and a strong voter registration drive among Latinos could give Carmona an edge. 

I photographed Carmona's town hall meeting Thursday. There are more photos in my archive

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Waitin' for Chikin'

A Chick-fil-A customer squeezes past the line after buying a couple bags of chicken at a Chick-fil-A in Chandler Wednesday

Wednesday was chicken day for conservatives across the country. Or at least in towns with a Chick-fil-A. Back in June, Dan Cathy, COO of Chick-fil-A, told a Baptist radio station that the country was "inviting God's judgement on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than what as to what constitutes a marriage,' and I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about." 

I'm not sure why anyone was surprised by these comments. Chick-fil-A has a long history of opposition to gay rights. They give money to conservative groups that oppose gay marriage and they don't allow gay people to attend their couple's retreats. So Dan Cathy's comments were not really news. But they did set the blogosphere on fire. 

Several politicians, notably in Chicago and Boston, responded by saying Chick-fil-A was not welcome in their communities. Conservatives rallied to the chain's defense and Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and current FOX bloviator, created Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, to be marked on August 1. 

And Chick-fil-A was appreciated. People waited more than an hour to get into the Chick-fil-A in Chandler. Given that the East Valley of the Phoenix area is heavily Mormon, Republican and Conservative, the number of people waiting to eat deep fried chicken, accompanied by deep fried potatoes and topped off with ice cream isn't really surprising. What did a surprise me a little was that several people waiting for chicken (or chikin' as Chick-fil-A cloyingly calls it) came up to me said they weren't there because they were opposed to gay marriage, and that in fact they support gay marriage but they opposed government officials punishing Chick-fil-A for constitutionally protected speech made by the company's COO. 

That's sort of the conundrum here. It's like the ACLU defending Nazis who marched in Skokie, ILL, in 1977. The ACLU, the organization that does the most to protect the rights of the under represented in this country defending an organization that is bent on denying us those rights. (The ACLU is currently in court in Maricopa County suing Sheriff Joe Arpaio's department for racial profiling.)

No matter how you feel about gay marriage, Dan Cathy has a constitutionally protected right to express his views on the issue. If individuals, or interest groups, want to boycott Chick-fil-A for those comments, that's their right. But Cathy has the right to say anything he wants, regardless of how mean spirited and hateful it might be.