Casteen Interview – Podcast March 20, 2023

Bigotry Under The Banner Of Religion. Karen McClelland welcomes Jeanne Casteen of Secular Coalition AZ. The organization is a lobbying group and watchdog for policies that erode the separation of church and state which is enshrined in the Constitution.

Article VI states “…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” And the First Amendment begins: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Of course, that also means freedom from religion. Yet many still want to force their religious beliefs onto others.

Lately, Secular Coalition AZ has been particularly watchful of the Christian Nationalists who have been elected to public school boards and pushing for book bans and discrimination against gay and trans communities. Casteen says, “Folks that just got sworn in at the beginning of January have already come in and really tried to disrupt. What we’re seeing is kind of…it seems like a movement, a strategy to bankrupt the district through lawsuits. I’ve heard there are many districts throughout the state where superintendents are not renewing their contracts because the board situation is so volatile, And I’ve watched some of these meetings where these superintendents are really under attack. At this point we don’t just have a teacher retention crisis. We have a principal retention crisis. We have a superintendent crisis.”

“I don’t understand how religion is used to teach bigotry, but that’s what we’re seeing here,” she says.

Posted in Anti-Gay Discrimination, Arizona Politics, Bigotry, Child Protection, Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Community Activism, Constitutional Issues, Cultural Change, Cultural Diversity, Democratic Governance, Demographic Trends, Domestic Extremism, Education, Education Policy, Elections, Government, Interviews, Legal Issues, LGBT Issues, Local Politics, National Politics, Political Polarization, Public Education, Public Policy, Religion, Theocracy | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jordahl, Quezada Interview – Podcast March 13, 2023

GOP Attacks On The First Amendment Continue. Steve Williamson and Karen McClelland welcome attorneys Mik Jordahl and Martin Quezada to discuss bills that are being introduced in Republican-controlled legislatures across the country that would restrict free speech. Some of the bills would force government contractors to sign agreements that they and their employees will not boycott companies representing a long list of Republican issues, such as fossil fuels or firearms. Other bills would prohibit states and cities from investing in certain industries, for example, such as green energy.

In essence, both types of bills are a backdoor way to stop the necessary environmental and societal changes that are occurring. “It’s politicizing investment and government work,” says Jordahl. “Where does that end?”

Quezada, who recently lost his bid to become Arizona State Treasurer, explains one of the issues that Republicans used against him during his campaign was his commitment to ESG (Environmental and Social Governance), a tool used to evaluate investment risk that he and most investment managers use to make informed decisions and to evaluate risk. “In my campaign, it was described as woke investing.”

Asked who the bills benefit, Jordahl responds that it’s the fossil fuel companies, the firearms industry and anti-abortion groups. Not surprisingly, many of them are GOP donors.

Posted in Arizona Politics, Business Cultural Change, Capitalism, Civil Liberties, Climate Change, Conservative Paranoia, Constitutional Issues, Corporations, Democratic Governance, Domestic Extremism, Environment, Environmental Issues, Environmentalism, Ethics, Fiscal Policy, Government, Human Rights, Interviews, Investment Banking, Legal Issues, National Politics, Public Accountability, Public Policy, Public Private Collaboration, Special Interest Legislation, U.S. Court System | Leave a comment

What Happened To The GOP? – Podcast March 6, 2023

The Decline Of The Republican Party Into Fascism.
Steve Williamson, Karen McClelland and Gary LaMaster discuss the modern-day GOP.  How did it happen? What does it mean for the US? No longer the majority political party and no longer conservative, the GOP maintains power only through its cultivation of the culture war combined with lies and fearmongering.

To demonstrate how depraved the party has become, Steve cites Trump’s fascist-style speech at the recent CPAC conference: “In 2016, I declared I am your voice. Today, I add, I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution,” he said. That statement could be likened to those made by autocrats and dictators throughout history. Or, perhaps as Karen says, a Marvel movie villain.

In the same speech, Trump described his own party this way, “We had a Republican Party that was ruled by freaks, neocons, globalists, open borders zealots and fools, but we are never going back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove and Jeb Bush.”

Though many have embraced Republicans like Trump out of the fear of societal change, Gary believes we must compare their statements against their actions. “They call themselves patriots. But they are trying to destroy our government. They claim to support freedom. But they are trying to limit the freedom of others. They claim to be anti-crime. But they have made military-style weaponry available to everyone, including criminals.”

Posted in Arizona Politics, Bigotry, Capitalism, Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Civil Society, Climate Change, Conservative Paranoia, Conservatives and Reactionaries, Cultural Change, Cultural Diversity, Democratic Governance, Department of Justice, Disinformation, Domestic Extremism, Domestic Terrorism, Education, Elections, Government, Gun Control, Human Rights, LIberals and Conservatives, Misogyny, National Politics, Pharmaceuticals, Political Lies, Political Parties, Political Polarization, Public Education, States' Rights, Voter Suppression, Women's Rights | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Indicavitch Interview – Podcast February 27, 2023

Fending Off Republicans’ Continuing Attacks On Education. Steve and Karen welcome Nicki Indicavitch, State Outreach Director for Save Our Schools Arizona. A mother of five kids, she became involved with the organization after discovering how difficult it is for public schools to buy the things necessary for education.

As part of her job, she spends much of her time lobbying the Republican-controlled legislature. But, she says, “This legislative session has been different. We do have a governor there who has been really clear that she will veto bills that are dangerous for kids, dangerous for communities, and bad for schools.” Nevertheless, she says, many of the same dangerous bills have been introduced again this year. “They kind of have their bills sent to them by out-of-state organizations. They’re not really Arizona bills. They’re just bills from any special interest that Republicans are willing to drive forward.”

According to Indicavitch, many of the Republicans’ culture war bills are simply fundraising tools. And they defy reality. “I mean we’re talking about banning books while kids are running around with cellphones that have access to literally anything they want at all times. What you should be talking about is how to retain teachers,” she says. “Because that’s a real problem. That’s an actual crisis for our kids that’s being ignored for some of these really toxic culture wars.”

“The reality is that today…almost a quarter of Arizona classrooms are struggling to get an educator or don’t currently have one. This has been chronic in Arizona. Teachers do not want to be in our state or in our classrooms. And one of the things I think that [Governor] Hobbs has done a really good job of explaining is that we don’t have a teacher shortage. We have plenty of credentialed teachers in this state. We have teachers that are unwilling to enter our classrooms as they stand today. You’re asking teachers to take shockingly low pay, a very high class size without resources that they know their students need, and then you also pile on the fact that the Republican Party is declaring war on them through these culture war issues.”

Posted in Arizona Politics, Community, Conservative Paranoia, Conservatives and Reactionaries, Conspiracy Theories, Cultural Change, Domestic Extremism, Education, Education Funding, Education Policy, Government, Interviews, Local Politics, National Politics, Political Polarization, Privatization, Public Education, Special Interest Legislation | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Work Interview – Podcast February 20, 2023

Compassion In Politics? Steve and Karen welcome Robertson Work back to the show. A former UN employee and teacher, he is currently an activist, writer, and poet. One of his most noted books is A Compassionate Civilization: The Urgency of Sustainable Development and Mindful Activism – Reflections and Recommendations.

He claims compassion is our very nature. Yet our politics are driven by fear and anger. And, as a society, we are causing irreparable harm to our planet. Work says that when we become fearful it becomes all about me. We have to acknowledge that we’re all connected. “How do we invent a society that cares for everyone and cares for nature?” he asks. “It’s possible. We can do it.” As for dealing with fear, Work says, “We can be kind to even those we disagree with. That’s so important – to be kind and include rather than be judgmental and exclude.

He goes on to explain that anger, fear and a lack of understanding are the result of being separated from others. “We are separated in our houses, our online bubbles,” he says. “How do we work through those bubbles? We chat.” He adds that we need to let go of ego, recognize others and listen to them. “It’s not about me. It’s about the group. Be careful of your words when speaking to others. Your gestures. Your actions.”

Asked how we can get in a more compassionate frame of mind, Work suggests taking time with nature. Being mindful. He recommends meditation, saying, “It’s a simple practice. Being aware of your mind. Being aware of your body, of others.” He advises, “Stop thinking and just be.”

Posted in Bigotry, Biodiversity, Civil Society, Compassion, Cultural Change, Environment, Environmental Issues, Global Warming, Human Rights, Interviews, LIberals and Conservatives, Mass Extinction, Mass Migration, Misogyny, Morality, National Politics, Philosophy, Political Polarization, Refugees, Wilderness Preservation | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Work Interview – Podcast February 20, 2023

Bahr Interview – Podcast February 13, 2023

Thirsty For Solutions. Steve Williamson and Karen McClelland welcome Sandy Bahr back to the show. Bahr is a long-time representative of the Arizona Chapter of the Sierra Club and spends a great deal of her time lobbying the Arizona legislature on behalf of the environment. In recent years, much of her focus has been on the growing scarcity of water in Arizona and the rest of the Southwest.

“The water in the Colorado River has always been overallocated even without the extended drought – the impacts of climate change – there wasn’t enough water for all of the straws that were being put into the river. And so, there’s a structural deficit with the Colorado River to begin with.  And anyone who’s been paying attention can see that, over the years, the amount of water was dwindling and increasing problems. But the people in the legislature, and in the governor’s office, pretty much ignored it until it got to a point where it triggered shortages for Arizona.”

Regarding the bill passed by last year’s legislature, she explains that the focus is on importing water from outside the state of Arizona. “There’s some focus on conservation,” she says. “But not nearly enough.” It’s true that former Governor Ducey got the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority to consider a proposal for a desalination plant in the Gulf of California. But there are huge problems with it, Bahr explains. “First of all, we know now that the governor of Sonora said ‘no’, we’re really not planning to do this. Two, there are environmental impacts. Putting brine in the Gulf of California is a problem. Running a pipeline through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a problem. And the cost is quite significant, as well,” says Bahr.

Meanwhile, she notes, the legislature this session is doing nothing about water. “You’d think that we don’t have a serious water problem if you look at the bills being considered.”

Posted in Arizona Politics, Climate Change, Domestic Extremism, Environment, Environmental Issues, Global Warming, Government, Interviews, Native American Issues, Political Parties, Political Polarization, Public Accountability, Water Policy, Wilderness Preservation | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Bahr Interview – Podcast February 13, 2023

Lenze Interview – Podcast February 6, 2023

Balloons, Borders, And Bullies. Steve Williamson and Karen McClelland welcome Professor Paul Lenze, Jr. back to the show to discuss recent events affecting US foreign policy. They begin by talking about the Chinese spy balloon that was shot down after crossing the U.S.

Lenze cautions, “I would be careful in calling it aggression because it wasn’t physical aggression. We don’t know if it was an error. China and the U.S. still have a relationship because we’re heavily dependent on each other’s economies.” As for Xi Jinping’s threat of China invading Taiwan, he says, “Given what’s happened with Ukraine, Xi is unlikely to invade Taiwan in the near term.”

Turning to Ukraine, Lenze says the one big surprise is that the countries of Europe banded together, especially given how reliant they have been on Russian gas. But, he notes, “Given the fact that he [Putin] is doubling down, I don’t think we’re going to see this end anytime soon.” He predicts that two things can happen: There could be enough domestic protests to cause Russia to leave. Or there could be negotiations.

To put these things in context, Lenze has written a new book called, Searching for Monsters to Destroy, American Foreign Policy in a Multi-polar World. It examines American power in the world and how it has declined since 2001. It also looks at how China and Russia have engaged with the US over the crises from 2001 to 2023.

Asked if America can and should maintain its position of power in the world, he says, “Yes…but we have to find common ground with emerging powers like China because we have shared interests.” Lenze claims the authoritarianism we see in the world is a byproduct of influence and colonialism over the years. He says, “We need to defend the liberal international order. But it’s going to be a challenging endeavor.”

Posted in Capitalism, China, European Union, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Interviews, Pandemic, Russia, Ukraine | Tagged | Comments Off on Lenze Interview – Podcast February 6, 2023

Jablow Interview – Podcast January 30, 2023

A Mayor Who Listens. Steve Williamson welcomes Scott Jablow back to the show. Recently elected as Sedona’s Mayor after eight years on the City Council, Jablow says one of the things he enjoys most about the office is contact with citizens. To that end, he encourages Sedona citizens to call him with their questions and input anytime between 7am and 8pm.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Jablow details some of the issues facing the City along with his hopes and plans for the future. He begins by saying there is hope on the horizon for the return of local control from the state legislature to Arizona’s cities. That would have major implications for a number of problems the City is facing, including short-term rentals.

Other issues discussed include workforce housing, the City’s plans for the Culture Park property, forest lands and more.

Posted in Civic Renewal, Community, Democratic Governance, Development, Environmental Issues, Federal Lands, Fiscal Policy, Government, Health Care, Housing, Interviews, Local Politics, Public Accountability, Public Lands, Public Service, Regulation | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Jablow Interview – Podcast January 30, 2023

Garrado Interview – Podcast January 23, 2023

Helping The Arizona Democratic Party Take The Next Step. Steve Williamson and Karen McClelland welcome Steve Garrado to the show. Garrado is currently one of two candidates for Chair of the Arizona Democratic Party. His experience includes 14 years as a county election employee in addition to terms on two school boards. He also served in both the Arizona House and Senate. And he is currently a Maricopa County Supervisor. In 2020, he also had the honor to deliver one of the state’s 11 electoral votes for President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.

Garrado has been endorsed for the position of Chair by Governor Katie Hobbs and other Democratic officials. Yet he acknowledges that his opponent has more endorsements, probably because he got a late start. But he says it’s not about the endorsements for each candidate. It’s about a vision. “Who has the expertise, the knowledge, the vision, the experience to run and deliver wins for the Democratic Party?” He notes that Arizona Democrats have had success in the past two elections, but says, “Who has the knowledge and experience to be able to take our Party to that next step? To be able to win the legislature? I’ve run for election 20 times. I know how to win.”

Unlike the past executive team, Garrado promises to support Democrats in every county. “The state Party is only as strong as the 15 counties. Every county is important.”

Posted in Arizona Politics, Community Activism, Conservatives and Reactionaries, Democratic Governance, Education, Elections, Environment, Government, Interviews, LIberals and Conservatives, Local Politics, Political Candidacy, Political Clubs, Political Parties, Political Polarization, Public Accountability, Voting | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Garrado Interview – Podcast January 23, 2023

Bejarano Interview – Podcast January 16, 2023

Building The Future Of The Arizona Democratic Party. On Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Steve and Karen welcome Yolanda Bejarano, one of two candidates for chair of the Arizona Democratic Party. She is the current Vice-Chair of the Party. In addition to her work in politics, Bejarano has a long history as a steward, organizer, and as National Field Director for the Communication Workers of America labor union.

She says the transition to working for the Democratic Party was a natural progression of her interests in promoting workers’ rights and human rights. Looking at the job as Chair, Bejarano says she would focus on listening to the counties and legislative districts to determine what we do well and what we can do better. She believes there are major opportunities for the Party to improve in a lot of areas. For example, as a Latina, she notes, “We are not communicating with Latinos in a strong way.”

Bejarano has gathered a long list of endorsements from Party leaders.

Posted in Arizona Politics, Civil Rights, Community Activism, Elections, Human Rights, Interviews, Labor Movement, Labor Unions, Political Candidacy, Political Clubs, Political Parties, Voting | Tagged , | Comments Off on Bejarano Interview – Podcast January 16, 2023