I was speaking at a high-school class when a kid asked me where I get the ideas for my columns. I first explained that, as a columnist, I am blessed to live in a state with the absolute worst legislature in the entire country—a bunch of racist, sexist, anti-education inbred crackers who are bought and paid for by special interests and religious zealots. A halfway-decent columnist could write about the atrocities perpetrated on the citizens of Arizona by these knuckleheads on a weekly basis without ever repeating him/herself. But there is something to be said for variety.
I also read a lot every day (newspapers and magazine) and watch the news. I always thought it would be cool to be like the late Mike Royko. You know, a guy from The Block, the voice of the people. But, while I've been here almost four decades, I'm not a native. Plus, I don't hang around bars where I get to hear colorful stories from guys named Knuckles or Cheese. Mostly, however, it's because I'm not as good as Mike Royko was.
Nevertheless, I do have a surprising number of people who offer me (unsolicited) ideas for columns. Most email me, but some come up to me at the store, at a ball game, or even after church. In just the past couple weeks, I've received these suggestions:
• Hey Tom, why don't you write about that guy whose execution lasted more than two hours? That was terrible.
Someone actually spoke those words to me and my response—quick and final—was something that rhymes exactly with "Duck that smother trucker!" I was puzzled by all of the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth that followed the "botched" execution. I just wondered whether, while he was choking on his own crap, if he could see the faces of the two people he brutally murdered just because he had been a lousy boyfriend. I feel sorry not at all for that dude.
The Constitution bans cruel and unusual punishment. That's why the injection came about in the first place; it was supposed to be more humane than other methods. They did mess up his execution; it should be fixed.
Oddly enough, if the state and/or country decided to ban capital punishment altogether, I'd be fine with that. It would probably be for the best. But, in the meantime, I've got no problem with our society saying bye-bye to that guy.
• Tom, do you support the $15 minimum wage for fast-food workers?
Fifteen dollars an hour? Starting pay for fast-food workers?! Um, no.
Like the vast majority of all Americans—Republicans and Democrats alike—I strongly support the raising of the minimum wage to somewhere in the $10/hour range. That's where it should have been for some time now. Unfortunately, the American economy has been hijacked by a bunch of Business School pirates for whom more than enough is never enough. And they have an army of sycophants in Congress who are so enamored with money that they'll do anything for their super-rich buddies in hopes that some cash might fall off and magically float their way.
(There's that great line in House of Cards, where Kevin Spacey laments of his former assistant, "Unfortunately, like so many people in Washington, he went for the money instead of the power.")
Back in the day, fast-food positions were mostly filled by young kids, doing entry-level jobs after school or on the weekends. Times have changed and I know that some of those jobs are now held by single parents and people who graduated college with English Literature degrees.
An increase in the minimum wage is long overdue, but $15/hour for working at a burger joint is just crazy talk.
• Somebody emailed me about a petition they're circulating, trying to get the University of Arizona to divest itself from any dealing with the mega-rich right-wing nutbirds, the Koch Brothers. (In this case only, "Koch" is pronounced "Kook.")
I don't agree. I pretty much despise the Koch Brothers and all they stand for. I hope they end up like the Duke Brothers, the characters played by Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy in Trading Places—broke and out on the street.
But this isn't like asking an institution to divest itself from dealing with the apartheid government of South Africa. The Koch Brothers are Americans and, while what they stand for is disgusting and reprehensible, it's not against the law. Sorry.
• Tom, do you think Tucson should follow Tempe's lead and ban e-cigarettes in public places?
Oh, hell yes. I went to the movies a few weeks ago and there was some woman smoking one of those things a few rows ahead of us. Every time she sucked on it, a light went on and then a cloud of vapor obscured the screen. When I asked her nicely to stop, she said, "It's not against the law."
Neither, I hope, was pissing on her car.
• Tom, a while ago, you said you were going to try to get that God-awful statue of Pancho Villa removed from downtown. Did you drop the ball on that?
Yes, and now I'm picking it back up. I'm going to contact the members of the City Council, find out why they're willing to leave that monstrosity alone and then go from there.