Running on half-empty?
Now that Sarah Palin's take it for what it was stop in Iowa has past, one has to stop and wonder how much sand is left in her hourglass.
Indianola served as the latest example of the slow trip downhill. The weather was against her, with what was described as torrential rain, cutting the expected crowd down to about two thousand. This was much lower than the "Tea Party of America" had hoped for. There was also some controversy leading up to the event as to who was really going to be there: Palin, Christine O'Donnell, both, or neither.
In the final wind-up, Palin, after hearing her opening act warm up the audience by poking fun at special needs children (bet somebody lost an agent over that one), took the obligatory potshots at President Obama, a jab at former running mate Sen. John McCain (perhaps as admonishment for unloosing her upon us), and found it in herself to fire off one of the racier one-liners her writers (much funnier than Eric Golub, Palin's opening act): "Polls? Nah...they're for strippers and cross-country skiers."
See, now that's comedy. Palin was responding to a recent FOX News poll, in which not only 74% of voters, but 66% of those who described themselves as tea party members said not only no, but no thank you to a Palin White House bid.
Just when I think the Dumbening is starting to snowball, poll numbers like this come along and talk me back from the ledge a bit. I mean, I agree with Palin in the sense that polls don't usually mean much. But at this early stage, for public opinion to be leaving you far behind and fast, says something. And this poll caught my eye for one other reason- the fact that FOX News aired the results after conducting the poll. When you think about it, the network is learning that the public is quickly growing tired of her schtick, and coming to the realization they have her as an employee. Or contributor. Or in-house hockey mom, whatever the crap her title is at FOX.
I think FOX is starting to hope that the Tea Party exodus from Palin means that while she may be losing a bit of her broad mainstream appeal, maybe she can hold on to a somewhat regional following. It may not allow her to run for President and be taken a damn bit seriously, but it won't stop her from hitting New Hampshire yet. Might as well enjoy the attention while it's fresh. At least she can continue her speaking engagement/bus tour/book signing thingie for a while, or until a puppet show draws top billing...
Talk about exploiting an untapped resource. New legislation in Arizona would allow the state's Department of Corrections to not only impose a one percent charge on deposits into a prisoner's spending account, but also to impose a one-time $25 "background check" fee for adults who want to visit an inmate at one of the fifteen facilities that house state prisoners. Think that's bad. Not only does this fee apply to people simply wanting to call an inmate, but the original proposal would have applied the fee to children and babies. Yes, children and babies. Who in the absolute blue fuck does Arizona think it is, wanting to charge to run a background check on an infant, Homeland Security?
This legislation has led to a pair of lawsuits in the face of criticism over the state's scheme to try and plugs holes in a $1.6 billion deficit.
Yeah, and what a fantastic job they did with this idea, as it appears. Not only does the one percent off the top of prisoner spending accounts smack of state-sponsored shakedown, but the money is not even being used to pay for background checks in the first place.
The first thing right off the bat, this will wind up reducing the number of people who visit their loved ones and relatives in prison. A lot of people are already hard-pressed to afford a cross-state trip for a visit, and $25 extra in a lot of circumstances can be a dealbreaker. I'm not for giving prisoners much to begin with, but at the very least they should be allowed visits from their family. By essentially charging an admission, you turn the state's prisons into a sideshow, and it is more than a little asinine to not even comp the families of the "talent."
Barrett Marson, a yeshole for the Arizona Corrections Department, would not comment on the pending legislation, per the usual policies, but did say the department had received calls and letters about the fees, and there had been no complaints reported from the inmates.
Allow the cynic in me to flare up just a bit. What is the difference in the number of complaints reported versus the number of complaints actually made?
At least there was somebody willing to comment on the situation. Arizona Senate chief of staff Wendy Baldo not only confirmed the deficit-plugging intentions of the legislation, but confirmed the money was not going to background checks, but rather into a fund for prison maintenance and repair.
Are the background checks even being conducted, and if so, at what cost weighed against the sideways "Arizona Prison Building Fund" donations being squeezed from the families of state inmates? Sounds like a pretty good racket to me, if I were a soulless asshole, that is.
Middle Ground Prison Reform, an advocacy group in Tempe, Arizona, agree this is a racket, and have filed a pair of lawsuits, one on the background check fee and one on the one percent shakedown from the inmates.
I mean, with this precedent, how long before a private correctional company follows suit? Even worse, how long before a private correctional company devolves it into some sort of subscription or season ticket style of "service?" Save now, five visits for the price of four, and no payments until 2012. Those would be some fucked up holiday sales commercials right there...
Then again, maybe I got this wrong. Maybe if Arizona was to put the money to better use than repairing the prisons...say, maybe tracking down the soft-sided cooler with a pound of explosives inside stolen during a police training exercise at Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport. Normally, this is where I would insert a joke about this being what happens when you miss rehearsals, but in this case, I still kind of have to ask, why practice in a busy airport with live explosives?
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