Monthly Archives: March 2008

Michael Lacey’s Speech to the ACLU Dinner


Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

My partner, Jim Larkin, and I were arrested in mid-October after writing about the secret grand jury instigated by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Which is why we are here with you this evening.

And I am here… to tell you… that I prefer spending a night in Joe Arpaio’s cell to making a speech.

But the good folks at the ACLU informed us that there would be no rubber chicken,… no wooden plaques… without a monologue. And so I have been drafted to share some thoughts.

And this is what I think: You will not be rid of Sheriff Joe Arpaio until our kids reject the gentrified instinct of soccer moms and …embrace the spirit of Donald Duck.

As we sit here inside a museum dedicated to the culture of one trampled minority, Sheriff Joe Arpaio is blockading the streets of Phoenix and jailing another trampled minority…Mexican immigrants.

I am heartened that the ACLU in Arizona is led by an individual, Dan Pochoda, who bore witness to the civil rights abuses of the oppressed and who was arrested because he stood shoulder to shoulder with Mexicans who, by the way, have the same constitutional rights as my own children.

Here, in this desert, it is Selma time.

One month before Jim and I were arrested, I happened to visit Germany and while there toured Dachau. The fearsome name – Dachau — belies its prosaic origins. Dachau began as a mere settlement camp for the revolutionaries who disrupted the tranquility of German streets. Dachau’s opening was noted without rancor on the front page of The New York Times. In the earliest days the Red Cross attested to Dachau’s place in a well ordered universe.

But Dachau grew to accommodate the needs of Nazi Germany and housed the infamous Doctor Mengele. The camp also incarcerated the German theologian and poet, Martin Niemoller.

It was pastor Niemoller that helped me connect the dots following our arrest last October.

You see, people were outraged, not merely by Sheriff Arpaio’s arrest of two journalists but by what we revealed about County Attorney Andrew Thomas’ secret grand jury.

Under the direction of special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik, the grand jury subpoenas sought not only the confidential notes of all of our reporters but – and this is the stunning part – the subpoenas also sought the identity and online reading habits of anyone who looked at New Times.


Law enforcement came to that belief gradually.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his henchman County Attorney Andrew Thomas applied the pressure gradually, incrementally, and without impediment.

The first target was prisoners. And that pleased voters.

Soon political opponents were targeted, as were writers, editors, migrants, judges.

Sarah Fenske, Paul Rubin, Stephen Lemons, Bill Jensen, John Dickerson, Ray Stern, Megan Irwin, Amy Silverman and Rick Barrs wrote and edited the series of articles that showed how each of these groups were targeted without public revolt.

By the time the authorities came after our newspaper’s readers, law enforcement no longer concerned itself with an indignant public.

There had not been an indignant public.

And so the familiar words of pastor Niemoller took on new gravity here in Phoenix Arizona:

When the Nazi’s came for the communists, I remained silent;

I was not a communist.

Then they came for the sick, the so-called incurables, and I didn’t speak up.

Because I wasn’t mentally ill.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up.

Because I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.


At the end of our series of articles, Constitutional scholar and Dean Emeritus of the ASU law school, Paul Bender, pointed to a rather shocking solution – given his background – to the excesses of local law enforcement.

People must resist.

If law enforcement got the idea they could attack enemies who criticize, that’s extremely dangerous…if they succeed in terrorizing people it becomes a crisis…gross violations of the First Amendment…the sheriff’s roundup of immigrants, very questionable.”

People must stand up to Arpaio and Thomas said Bender.

By the way, this is in keeping with the opening episodes of the rather excellent HBO series on John Adams wherein we are reminded that this country was founded by rum runners, tax evaders, and patriots who tarred and feathered the customs agents of the British.

In any case, Bender’s advice that we must stand up made me wonder: where are the student protestors resisting the round up of Mexican immigrants?

Where are the Freedom riders? Where are the high school activists?

I saw Alfredo Gutierez out on the protest line in north Phoenix and it made me think of his leadership in the Hispanic laundry strike at ASU approximately 40 years ago.

Resistance is carbonated by the young.

But I have to wonder where that spirit of resistance is today.

Which brings me to soccer moms and their first wedge of submission to authority: bicycle helmets.

It has been my casual observation, hardly original, that the first victim of civility is civil liberty.

And civility is all the rage.

My youngest son Colin, spent eighth grade learning 7 forms of apology.

What sort of drivel is this?

If a student was rude to another, the offended student could choose 3 forms of apology out of the 7 offered by the school. The rude child than selected from these 3, which apology he or she would extend to the victim.

The 7 apologies included things like baking cookies for the wounded or carrying the books of the offended.

Colin wondered: what’s wrong with saying , “I’m sorry.”

I suppose 7 apologies followed logically campaigns against rap lyrics, video games, computer simulations, punk, goth ,Beavis and Butthead, Jackass, skateboarding, Dogtown and Z boys and the trashy excesses of YouTube.

And let me tell you what all this “decency” reminds me of.

In the 1930’s, good Germans were reminded of a new variant of Kinder, Coo-keh, Keer-keh : children, kitchen, church.

Elsewhere in the 1930’s comic books – as opposed to the newspaper comics – were invented.

Last Sunday The New York Times Book Review critiqued The Ten-Cent Plague, The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America.

We were reminded that comic books were burned in bonfires by the offended and censorship boards spread and newsdealers were arrested.

Kids sought out the noir characters, the dark superheroes and created an underground culture.

The forces of offended decency hovered over comic books virtually from their inception” noted the reviewer. As comics evolved, “America’s postwar paranoia deepened, and then onto Mad and its imitators as a hipster subculture began to bubble up from the depths of the repressed 50’s. Let us not even get started on Donald Duck.”

Jim Larkin and I were, and are huge fans of Mad magazine and remain to this day devotees of Carl Banks, the comic genius who penned Donald Duck.

The irrasble Donald was someone I recognized as opposed to Mickey Mouse who would been jumped in any American school yard .

Donald had issues with authority.

By the time Donald had his own comic book, he led his nephews on extraordinary adventures around the world.

Oddly, Carl Banks’ work is distributed today by a company in Prescott.

From Donald it was a small step to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island when I was 7. A lucky girl would have jumped from Mad to Ann of Green Gables or perhaps Nancy Drew. In the end it would all bend and blend.

And it seems so harmless in the rear view mirror that yo
u have to wonder what the hell were parents so worried about.

While the sedition of Mad erodes any undue respect for authority, the key word is “undue”. You can not appreciate the satire if you do not understand authority.

Robert Louis Stevenson would go on to write The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, a classic analysis of good and evil. Tragedy follows when Dr. Jeckyll – like a good soccer mom – tries to separate his raucous self from his aspirational self, rather than embracing his inner Beavis and Butthead.

I truly believe that a hot tempered Mad magazine encouraged young readers to – as Paul Bender termed it – “stand up” to politicians and law enforcement when the time came. And Donald Duck conditioned us to see this resistance as the next adventure.

A culture of protest and renewal will always be at war with soccer moms, seven forms of apology, order and civility.

Arpaio argues that honest businessmen have signed petitions, the writ of the commoner, asking him to sweep up the disorder created near the Mexican day labor center in Sunnyslope.

But as Stephen Lemons revealed in this week’s issue of New Times the petitions originated with an oddball fixture in the nativist United for a Soverign America

Arpaio masks his racist campaign against Mexicans in a doily of civility. His sweeps are aimed at those who loiter or litter he tells us. His arrests are due to traffic violations.

In the name of Donald Duck and Mad magazine and on behalf of all of us who work at New Times, Jim Larkin and I are donating $10,000 to the this chapter of the ACLU to defend Hispanic immigrants.

The Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union insists that: Constitutional safeguards can not be sacrificed for children, kitchen or church. The Bill of Rights must always trump litter. Freedom does not bow and scrape before law and order.

In this fight we stand with the ACLU


Filed under Current Affairs

Village Voice Media Owners Get Civil Liberties Award

You can imagine how sparsely attended the ACLU dinner is in Arizona. I never put a dress on anymore over the weekend if I can help it, but I had to come pay my respects to Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin, for whose struggling New Times I was the first film reviewer, and whose Village Voice published David Mamet’s rejection of liberalism last week. So here I am on Saturday night, in a dress that fits like a sausage casing, dining on overdone chicken and underdone Chardonnay at the Heard Museum On my right is a man in a wheelchair with a medical alert dog in his lap. The dog, Homer, can detect changes in blood sugar and alert his diabetic master that it’s time to eat.

The guests of honor,Lacey and Larkin, have suddenly morphed into two middle-aged men, got arrested last year by our publicity-hungry Sheriff Joe Arpaio and they turned around and sued him. There are probably about 400 civil liberties issues involved here.

Arizona is enlivened by this conflict, which is really about larger issues like conditions in our prisons and the way we treat immigrants. But that doesn’t make this dinner more popular.

This is a sixties crowd. Younger people either don’t care about their civil liberties or don’t even notice they are gone; our civil liberties have eroded slowly over the past forty years, kind of like the boiling frog. But the people at this dinner remember the civil rights movement and Arizona’s Goldwater politics.

Lacey and Larkin are getting the Civil Libertarian of the Year Award for starting New Times after the Kent State shootings and for getting arrested. They actually started a newspaper that still exists today after 38 years, and is now nationwide. This is no joke.

Lacey does not like to speak publicly; he has been nervous all day. He takes this dinner very seriously.

The crowd stands as Larkin and Lacey approach the podium. Jim speaks of being represented by ACLU in the 70s when New Times wanted distribution rights at University of Arizona, and again in 1977 when they wanted to regain control of the paper to publish the entire Investigative Reporters and Editors series. Because of the reporting risks they take, New Times has had a long relationship with the ACLU.

Jim says New Times has repeatedly been sued for its editorial positions and its business practices. Entrenched interests in San Francisco are suing them, as are folks in Cleveland. Jim says on the east coast they are seen as monopolists and on the west coast they are seen as mom and pops without sophistication. Jim says this is fun.

Before he turns it over the Lacey, Jim also calls Sheriff Arpaio a thug with guns.

Lacey then says that Larkin has been a partner who has always put his heart and soul on the line. This is a venerable partnership. They’re like Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. Lacey remembers when the ACLU was in the same building as the New Times. Frankly, I’m amazed he remembers anything.

When Lacey launches into his after dinner remarks, he first points out that this dinner is in a place honoring one trampled minority while outside Arpaio is trampling on another minority – Mexican immigrants. He says today they have come for the Mexicans; tomorrow they will come for us. He draws analogies to the Nazi era in Germany and speaks of his own visit to Dachau, which at first was viewed as not such a bad place.

Lacey speaks of the need for resistance, and wonders where the resistance is to the erosion of civil liberties for our immigrants. He says we need to quit following the soccer moms and get behind Donald Duck, the cartoon character who didn’t tread the straight and narrow. He sees too much decency in our world.

His son has accompanied him to the dinner. He listens to his dad talk about how Mickey Mouse would have been jumped at high school in his day by the friends of Donald Duck.

Lacey goes on to say that in his youth, Mad Magazine undermined undue respect for authority. He thinks we have too much respect for authority today, and that Arpaio takes advantage of this to “mask his racist campaign against Mexicans with the doily of law and order.”

Later I meet Colin in the lobby and he tells me he is proud of his dad. I tell him he should be. I’m proud of him, too. Someone has to be willing to get arrested if anything is to change.

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Avoiding Email Bankruptcy

Many of my friends admit that they are overwhelmed by the volume of email they get. Indeed, Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang has looked into this problem in his own blog.

The geekier ones have instituted a process they call “declaring email bankruptcy,” in which they simply delete everything in their inboxes when they get up to about 2500 unread messages. Then they just start over.

Far be it from me to advise anyone on whether or not to declare email bankruptcy.

But I can tell you that if you do, or if you want to avoid it, here are some tips:

1) Point all your email to a Gmail address. Google has the best spam filters on the planet. They even have instructions on how to set it up so your mail goes back and forth. Even if you did have to declare email bankruptcy in Outlook, let’s say, only one of your “entities”would be bankrupt.

2)Don’t read your Gmail spam filter after the first few weeks. The false positives will go away, and Gmail deletes the spam after 30 days anyway. Just chill.

3)When you get up in the morning or get to your desk (I do this from bed on a laptop, but you may be sane and wait till you get to work), open your Gmail account and “Select All.”

4)Deselect messages that need to be read and answered, or the ones that are absolute spam. Get rid of the rest.

5)You will probably start without about 47 messages. When you do the big delete, you will be reduced by about half. “Select all” once again.

6)Deselect what you want to read and answer. You are down by another half, at least in the beginning. After a while, you will be down to two or three spam messages each time you read.

7)You are now left with what you want to read and answer. Select all again. Deselect what you want to answer. You would be surprised how few these are.

8)Skim the ones you want to read or can just read the first two lines of. Most of this is BACN, a technical term for stuffl like the fare sale, or the free shipping offer. This isn’t exactly spam, but you don’t need to read it today or act on it unless you want to. Now delete those you have skimmed.

9) Now you are down to the half dozen to a dozen things you need to answer. Limit your answers to one sentence. If the answer requires more than a sentence, make a phone call.

10) Archive only the email you answer.

Don’t ask me how I arrived at this system; I backed into it after years of experience. I am unwilling to declare any kind of bankruptcy, so I’ve figured out a lot of workarounds during my life 🙂

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Twitter Has Changed my Life


Time to write about Twitter, which has changed my life. Robert Scoble has written a sophisticated post about how he uses Twitter today, but he’s writing to people who already use it, and I’m writing to people who may never have heard of it. The image on the left is of Twitterific, the way I view Twitter when I am logged in as Earth911, giving out environmental tips for recycling and product stewardship. It’s in a space on my desktop (I have a Mac, so I have Spaces), and I look at it every few hours to answer people back, or to post something.

In Twhirl, another Twitter “client,” (which means it sits on my desktop and I don’t have to go to Twitter’s website to look at my tweets. Here I am logged in as @hardaway, which is the “real” me, if you think there’s any such thing as reality. But here’s where I follow the most people and spend the most time. Why do I do it?

Because Twitter has allowed me to meet and converse with people all over the world, without much of a commitment. The tweets come in as a stream, and if I see something engaging, I answer it. If not, I don’t.

Twitter allows me to share my knowledge. I’ve been on this planet 66 years, and I hope I have learned something. Every once in a while someone tweets “I’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer,” and I can refer them to @susanreynolds, who is a breast cancer survivor with a blog, or to the women’s health portal called Empowher, which has a wealth of information. I can also offer my wisdom about movies, or hotels in Phoenix.

Twitter allows me to have fun. Some people on Twitter love dogs, and we have a commonality of interest. I look st their dog pictures, and they read my Buppy blog.
I can also participate in group games, like Color Wars, with people who have the spirit of play while they spend the day sitting at a computer.

I can help raise money for charity.

But most important, Twitter is a way to glimpse our common humanity: how people tweeting from Australia, or the Phillipines, or Beijing, or Paris are doing the same kinds of things I am, worrying about things, taking their kids to the bus, or brushing off insults after public performances. They may be reporters, cameramen, stay at home moms, cancer patients, political junkies — they are a piece of me, and I am a piece of them. Twitter makes manifest something I have believed for a long, long time. We are all interconnected. Only now we can see it.


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My Friend Reuben

Reuben doesn’t think this feels like a Depression. And he should know. He’s a serial entrepreneur. Reuben started a packaging business, very successful, which his son now runs. He got into packaging after he got out of the watch repair tools business, which had segued into the high tech supply business. At one time, he supplied Motorola with Swiss-made tweezers. He never knew what they were used for — only that Motorola bought a lot of them. Today we would say he was part of Motorola’s supply chain.

He got into the watch repair tools business because he grew up in New York near the Bowery, which was then in the jewelry district.

(Reuben is thinking of starting a blog, only he’s not too sure he wants to deal with the number of responses he will probably get, because his first blog post will be how he feels about the Pentagon giving Airbus the contract for the next generation of fighter planes. He thinks the contract should have gone to Boeing, for obvious reasons.)

Reuben is 92. I met him in the pool at my gym, where he takes water aerobics every day after doing exercises upstairs on the machines. His back is bad, so walking in the water is easier for him.

His wife, his lifelong partner, to whom he was never unfaithful, died this year, so Reuben is pretty lonely. But he has a lot to say, so I love our lunches. We had one yesterday.

I asked him, “Reuben, does this feel like the Great Depression?”

Reuben graduated from high school during the Great Depression. He got his first job, which paid $3.00 a week, and then soon got promoted to a job that paid $6.00 a week. His mother brought up five children singlehandedly. He never went to college, but after the military he and his young wife Gloria came to Phoenix, Arizona, where he sold tools to repair watches.

They bought their first house for cash. It had 740 sq. ft. , 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. They slept on the floor in sleeping bags until they could save the money for furniture.

They did fine, until watches didn’t need to be repaired anymore. Then he had to figure out something else to sell, and that’s how he ended up in the “carry-away packaging” business. Nothing high tech about it. But he gave good prices and good service, and time after time the “big boys” came into the market, tried to buy him out, tried to crush him, and failed.

His son is now servicing the third generation of customers Reuben acquired. The company is doing well. Reuben is living in his paid off home overlooking Phoenix –the last in a series of moves he and Gloria made, and the home in which his kids grew up. Although he is in pain, to him every day is a gift, and his sense of humor is intact. So, he informs me, is his prostate. He pays for the lunch and then says “thank you” to ME!

I don’t even think he considers himself an entrepreneur. But I consider him a treasure.


Filed under Current Affairs

Setting Fire to the Resume Pile

I’ve been telling all the young people who ask me to read their resumes or hold on to their resumes “in case you see something” the same thing for a long time: your resume is a useless tool in your job search. Now, finally, somebody with a reputation and a blog that has readers says it better than I do. Of course this would be Seth Godin, who thinks the “show don’t tell” philosophy applies to your accomplishments as well.


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It’s Always the Economy, Stupid

This was Bill Clinton’s slogan in 1992, and it’s the slogan again today, although no one seems to be using it. No major candidate seems to have anything to say on today’s events. What’s happening today?

Well, Bear Stearns, an investment bank I remember from my childhood as my dad’s investment bank (they underwrote the public offerings of companies he took public as an investor, attorney, and advisor), will now cease to exist. After almost a century of high flying, they will be J.P. Morgan Chase. Which itself is an agglomeration of former individual banks that have disappeared.

Here’s what I believe will happen, and what its impact will be on the entrepreneurs I work with.

1. The last eight years have divided the rich from the poor in shocking ways, dealing out the middle class and removing opportunity in Amrica by strangling public education. Now the rich have had to look at the fact that they are not immune from what happens to the poor — if the banks and financial systems go down, in a moment they are no longer rich. Friends of mine who are retired and invested in mortgages are freaking out right now.

2.Established businesses are beginning to lay off. A friend of mine who has been in the homebuilding business for thirty years and runs a very lean and mean business says he has buyers who still buy lots, but can’t get financing to build. He’s also worried that he will have to lay off people. And that his bank will be in trouble.

3. The Fed ordered Bear Stearns to be bought for $2.00 a share rather than to go bankrupt. That’s basically a semantic issue. When a company goes from being worth $3.5billion to being sold for $236 million two days later, it means all valuations are bull.

4. Bear can’t be the only bank in this position. 2008 and 2009 will see another double digit decline in home prices, which means any bank in the mortgage business will ultimately be in trouble. We may wash out most of the big banks.

5. Homes are being foreclosed at the rate of 2 million a year. No one has ever seen this before. Consumers will go wacko when they see this, because they don’t know what is going to happen.

6. Credit will dry up for the consumer as well.

7. The 0% interest credit cards that startups outside Silicon Valley use to start their businesses will stop coming. So will bank loans to established businesses that want to expand.

8. The Boomers will panic, because they are nearing retirement. This will force a change. I’m not sure what the change will be, but there will be a major government response to this — from the Republicans, the believers in “limited government.” Already the Fed has jumped in to make the Bear Stearns transaction happen, which gives the lie to limitd government. Face it, we all want government when we need it.

9. We will decide as a country to get out of Iraq because we can’t afford the luxury of building democracy elsewhere when we are starving at home.

10. A smart politican will decide again to balance the budget and rebuild our country’s infrastructure, including our health plan. This is the only way to build jobs, confidence, and hope.

Sound familiar? We were here in 1933. It was called the Great Depression. What to do now?

Start a bank. Any bank without baggage from the past will be welcome and successful.

Start a company. Talent will be cheap, and we will need technology to solve both environmental and economic problems. You will have to bootstrap it, but that’ how we used to do it anyway.

Take responsibility for your own health. You can’t afford to get sick right now.


Filed under Current Affairs