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Even though Indiana Gov. Mike Pence at first said Republicans would "fix" their law authorizing discrimination but they wouldn't provide any legal protections for LGBTs, it's starting to sound as if they may be forced to do exactly the opposite of what they set out to do -- allow their state into the 21st century, kicking and screaming.

There have even been reports that Pence thought his big anti-gay law would catapult him into a presidential campaign. Where are voters finding these people?

Frank Rich of New York Magazine commented about the guv: "You have to wonder how stupid he thinks people are. Pence has a consistent record of supporting anti-gay discrimination, from speaking against the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' in 2010 to opposing state laws that protect the rights of gays and lesbians."

It's one thing to be a bigot. America seems to be full of them again, just like old times, and Pence certainly distinguished himself in that arena in his earlier elected capacity.

Still, it's another thing to lie over and over trying to cover up the fact that you've exposed yourself to the world as a bigot, and that seems to be Pence's main preoccupation since he signed his pet "religious freedom" religious discrimination bill.

Why do I say that? Follow me below.

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This is a story that could begin with, "Once upon a time there was a little town in Mexico, surrounded by beautiful tropical mountains and obsessed with the music of the common people."

But this is about a real town, with real people that I know, and I don't want to imply that many of them don't still live lives that are far from a fairly tale. And I'm about to say that their lives were better before they learned about satellite dishes and video games and many other things that so many of them still can't have.

In this town, little boys (and some girls) have grown up for generations viewing music as their ticket to a better life. The town has produced so many successful bands that I'm sure if I tried to name them all, I'd leave out one of the most successful.

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Whatever state school superintendent Diane Douglas intends to prove with her political career, it's hard to see how she plans to do it -- unless it's driving even more funding away from the schools she was elected to oversee.

One: Celebrating her second month in office by getting into an open war with the governor. That fight erupted over Douglas firing two people that her own letter to the governor said she didn't have the authority to fire without the concurrence of the Arizona Board of Education ... that's an unconventional beginning, to say the least.

Two: Using that letter to attack charter schools, the darlings of wingnut Republicans in this state. Political suicide by ego -- or so it would appear. Douglas must see a path ahead that nobody else sees, or else she's as politically astute as a pitcher of clabber.

And there's more to come: Gov. Doug Ducey immediately said the two Board of Education employees were not fired and should report to their desks Tuesday morning, after the Presidents Day holiday.

Douglas quickly fired back that as far as she was concerned, it was still up to her to decide that, and she wasn't so sure the two would be allowed back in the building on Tuesday.

Continued after the orange Arizona dust devil.

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I've been reading that Jeb Bush's idea on same-sex marriage is that everybody needs to respect everybody's views including those who would use "religious freedom" to deny the LGBT community any equality under the law.

That's fine. I doubt that many of us are surprised he said that.

But if there had been a reporter present, maybe someone would have asked him if he means the refusal not only of marriage equality, but of every law protecting gays from being fired or evicted at the whim of the person in power.

How would you construct a law protecting the LGBT community that's acceptable to people who claim their religious belief trumps any such law?

I submit that it can't be done -- anyone with ideas, feel free to speak up.

In fact, I submit that this is the ONLY reason for the sudden demon-spawn of the U.S. Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision last year.

Have you ever heard of an LGBT person who seriously cared what his landlord's religion was? "Religious freedom" here is a non-issue -- the issue is making sure no LGBT U.S. citizen goes into court thinking they might be treated equally.

We already had a couple of centuries of that.

If these self-righteous, pseudo-Christian chupacabras force people back into second-class citizenship, I expect them to get what they deserve.



It looks as if any day now, congressional Republicans will muzzle their threat of an annual shutdown of the federal government.

At least maybe the media will shut up their ridiculous song and dance about how this time -- THIS TIME -- a shutdown would be disastrous for the GOP.

Even The New York Times has been out in fantasy-land on this issue. Last week it reported that after a basement meeting at the Capitol, GOP leaders said they know they have to actually govern now or "squander the support voters gave them at the polls last month."

Where on earth did that idea come from?

More below the Cheese Puff.

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What happens when a state elects a superintendent of public instruction who opposes public education?

Most states would prefer to avoid finding out, but Arizona voters -- ever intrepid when it comes to self-destruction -- just can't stand the idea that our schools don't quite rank 50th out of the 50 states, so let's finish our sprint to the bottom!

All during the recent political campaigns, media muppets wondered why Diane Douglas refused to campaign and refused publicity when her opponent, David Garcia, was eminently qualified and being praised from every quarter -- including by some Republicans.

Well, now you know!

The moon-howling wingnut chupacabras out in Nuevo Cactus Grande already knew all they needed to know -- she's the Tea Baggin' Gov. Evan Mecham of public education and she's here to burn the house down.

(Mecham was Tea Party before the Tea Party was Tea Party, and quicker than the voters' recall process had time to work, he got his ass impeached by his own Republican cohorts in the Legislature as well as indicted for obstruction of justice -- oh, it was a fun time in Arizona politics!)

More mayhem after the orange cocoon.

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If you think the recent epidemic of state vote-suppression laws represent something new, I think you need to get out more.

In America, it goes back to the Founding Fathers' debate over who would get to vote, when John Jay apparently quipped that "Those who own the country ought to govern it."

Don't let that damned riffraff close to a voting booth! Of course, the debate continues over who actually IS the riffraff.

Leung Chun-ying, Beijing's chief administrator for Hong Kong, said his government would never consent to democracy in Hong Kong because "you would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than $1,800 a month … Then you would end up with that kind of politics and policies."

That's more direct than U.S. politicians, but it's true: If you want democracy, everybody votes; if you don't want democracy, you make sure only the powerful get to exercise power.

The story of a 1964 shoving match at a polling place in one of Phoenix's poorer neighborhoods shows how little progress we've made in 50 years.

Shove your way past the orange whatchamacallit.

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Taylor Swift's fifth album sounds like 30 years ago, and some critics are saying that the scarcity of contemporary references means "the times they are a-changin' " in popular music.

Of course, nobody will know that for sure until after the fact, and nobody yet seems to be guessing where we'd be headed.

In the recent past, white pop stars became stars by incorporating black music into their style. (Check Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber -- or even Katy Perry's current collaboration with Juicy J.)

Given that this album (titled "1989") is completely devoid of country elements, it might mean only that country music's million-selling anti-country misfit is positioning herself to become pop music's million-selling anti-pop misfit.

That point, at least, seems clear enough: In the video for the first single off the new album, for "Shake It Off," Swift deliberately botches every move in the hip-hop routine and is surrounded by people "not trying to be cool," as The New York Times put it.

Obvious interpretation: Hip-hop is no longer sacred.

If America is indeed saying bye-bye to hip-hop, which has been our dominant cultural barometer for decades, black leaders may have good reason for lamenting the current lack of interest in maintaining ethnic civil rights and voting rights.

And there's another piece that fits -- the fanatical opposition to immigration reform.

Brace yourself: Whitey may be back in control, and you may have heard it first from Taylor Swift.


When you live where I live, you don't usually use public transportation if you can help it -- you might celebrate a couple of birthdays just getting from Point A to Point B.

But there are places I can go directly on the bus, and sometimes the experience is amazing.

Not that long ago, a kid got on the bus at our neighborhood high school and turned out to be one of the most inspirational people I've met in a life that's covered the world.

I don't even know why we began talking, but because of his slightly accented English, I asked him what country he was from.

"Somalia," he said, and flashed a brilliant but split-second smile. "I had quite a trip to be here."

I commented that he seemed pretty fluent in English, since he was breezing right through his school enrollment form.

"Oh yes, I know a lot of English, and also German, Russian and Swedish -- as well as Wolof, but nobody speaks that here," he said, "and enough to get by in Spanish, Italian and Turkish."

Get to know Pete after the orange squiggle.

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Some stars of the Republican Party are threatening to leave the GOP because it won't fight hard enough against the will of U.S. voters.

Put another way, if the GOP intends to keep winning elections, people like the Rev. Mike Huckabee, one of its recent presidential candidates, say they'll be outta there.

It's the same strategy used by outraged segregationists when they bolted the Democratic Party after the Civil Rights Act and gave the GOP its "southern strategy" of the past 30 years.

Except this time, where do the homophobes go?

"I am utterly exasperated with Republicans and the so-called leadership of the Republicans who have abdicated on this issue," Huckabee said last week in an interview on American Family Radio's "Today's Issues."

"I'm gone," Huckabee ranted. "I'll become an independent. I'll start finding people that have guts to stand. I'm tired of this."

American Family Radio, of course, is a broadcasting tentacle of the American Family Association, identified as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Huckabee and his ilk soiled their bloomers this week when most GOP leaders were silent after court decisions expanding same-sex marriage, potentially adding more than a dozen more states.

With 53 percent of voters supporting marriage equality and 80 percent of 18- and 20-year-olds on board, Huckabee didn't explain how the GOP continues to oppose it and still remains a national power.

Because there isn't an explanation to give at this point.


It's long overdue to point out something that seems to get overlooked: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren isn't leading anything, so far.

She's become an articulate spokesperson for how the American public feels about banksters, student debt and maybe a handful of other issues, but the polls showed the public got there long before Warren emerged as a spokesperson. She didn't lead us there.

In other words, Warren is reflecting public opinion rather than creating it. She stands out among our politicians because she seems to be living in the current century rather than looking back at the last one, as most of our "representatives" do.

That's what made last week's exchange between CNN's Fareed Zakaria and former President Bill Clinton a bit of an eye-popper.

Zakaria asked whether Clinton thinks Warren is the "future of the Democratic Party."

"I think she's an important part of it," Clinton said.

The obvious next question would have been, "And how do the Clintons plan to catch up with a party that's rapidly leaving Billary at the station?"

In fact, aside from Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders (who isn't even a Democrat -- yet), name me a "leader" (cough) from the Democratic Party who doesn't run on issues that should have been addressed 10 or 15 years ago -- if the candidates bother to address an issue at all in their campaigns.

Yes, some of those issues are still festering sores that should be lanced. Immigration comes to mind. Also the question of how many more times we invade in the Mideast before we just let countries fall apart and reconfigure into patterns that make sense to the people who live there ... oh wait, that question isn't even being asked yet by our "leaders."

The mass media keep telling us what a divided nation we are. The polls keep showing we're anything but that.

Unless Americans habitually lie to the pollsters, solid majorities of us are united on almost any issue -- at one point, the figure went as high as 91 percent endorsing background checks for gun sales.

Politically speaking, that's as united as any country ever gets.

Meet me after the orange cauliflower.

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Most people who hear about Detroit's possible bankruptcy assume that gross mismanagement is the main cause.

Actually two of the major causes are a quirk of geography combined with insidious greed on the part of people who to this day are getting rich off of Detroit but not helping pay the bills for it.

First, the geography lesson. Detroit just happens to be wedged tightly into the northeast corner of Wayne County. Wealthy northern suburbs begin just across the street, but they're not only separate cities as in most metropolitan areas.

In Detroit's case, another county begins just across the street -- not that far north of downtown Detroit. Voila! Nobody north of that street has any responsibility for the south side of the street.

In fact, this is the street (8 Mile Road) that Eminem described so eloquently a few years ago -- the dividing line between two worlds.

Details below an orange squiggle.

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