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Archive | May, 2015

Maricopa County ducks recusal question

In court Friday, an attorney for the county said he would consult with the board as to whether they would join in the sheriff’s motion to recuse Judge G. Murray Snow because of questions he asked regarding investigations of Snow and Snow’s wife by the Sheriff’s Office.

The Arizona Republic

Under Arizona law, the Sheriff’s Office is not a legal entity that can be sued—it’s the County that’s the legal entity (Arpaio individually is also a defendant). A closed-door executive session of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors today was followed by a public vote to adopt whatever it was they talked about in secret—not disclosing what that was.

The Arizona Republic questioned the legality of the vote, citing the Arizona Open Records Law, that says:

…notices and agendas be provided which contain such information as is reasonably necessary to inform the public of the matters to be discussed or decided.

The County responded “… the judge has to know about it before it shows up in a blog.”

Hey what’s wrong with blogs? Judges can read blogs too. In any case the news cycle of this blog is shorter than that of the Arizona Republic and I have the story. The answer is tied up in what I said earlier about the County being on the hook in Melendres, rather than the Sheriff’s office.

The County was a party to the lawsuit, but then in 2009 Judge Snow dismissed them from it (ECF 194, 10/13/2009); however, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that they be added back, in substitution for the Sheriff’s Office and remanded the case back to Judge Snow on April 15 of this year. The County is asking for reconsideration of that decision, so their non-response to the disqualification motion is explained in a brief filed today:

imageAs the Court is aware, the County has advanced arguments to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to the effect that that court’s decision issued April 15, 2015, ordering that the County be made a party litigant in this action was, in that respect, erroneous and should be reversed. See Doc. 1116. In light of those arguments, the Board has determined that it would not be appropriate for the County to take a position on the pending Motion for Recusal or Disqualification.

The next president …

I was listening to “All Things Considered” (27 May 2015) on public radio this afternoon and they had a feature on the problem of terrorism, and specifically ISIS. Apart from the usual intelligent conversation, I noticed the reporter’s frequent use of the phrase, “the next president” in the context of what has to be done to combat terrorism. You can listen to that piece at NPR. Another piece was on Rick Santorum’s candidacy for president in 2016.

I guess Barack Obama is now yesterday’s news for everybody except the birthers and those who watch them.

All of that wouldn’t be connected with the purposes of this blog, except for a third story about an effort to enlist a broad coalition to come up with ideas to combat the recruitment of Islamic militants, particularly through the Internet, and countering terrorist propaganda. I was surprised that ISIS marketing was described as very professional—they even have their own video game where players can kill government troops in Iraq.

My point here is that if President Obama is scared silly about birthers, then why is it that his entire strategy for combatting birthers is releasing a couple of birth certificates, and making an occasional joke? Why aren’t academicians being enrolled to develop counter-birther strategies, professional marketing organizations being employed to build web sites and to deploy advertising campaigns, birther deprogramming projects created, and focus groups brainstorming the best way to derail the birther movement? Why aren’t slick anti-birther arguments being leaked to the media? Why is the only ongoing anti-birther activity a handful of nobody volunteers with no funding? It must not be a priority.

Arpaio’s legal blunder

imageAs you have read in these pages, Joe Arpaio through his attorney, has filed a motion to disqualify federal district judge G. Murray Snow, in the racial profiling case of Melendres v. Arpaio. The motion, “Motion for Recusal or Disqualification of District Court Judge G. Murray Snow,” invokes two federal statutes: 28 USC § 455 and 28 USC § 144. You can read about those in my article, Sheriff Joe cries “uncle”!

Invoking § 144 is a problem. Here is the statute:

Whenever a party to any proceeding in a district court makes and files a timely and sufficient affidavit that the judge before whom the matter is pending has a personal bias or prejudice either against him or in favor of any adverse party, such judge shall proceed no further therein, but another judge shall be assigned to hear such proceeding.

The affidavit shall state the facts and the reasons for the belief that bias or prejudice exists, and shall be filed not less than ten days before the beginning of the term at which the proceeding is to be heard, or good cause shall be shown for failure to file it within such time. A party may file only one such affidavit in any case. It shall be accompanied by a certificate of counsel of record stating that it is made in good faith.

Note the highlighted portion: “A party may file only one such affidavit in any case.” The problem is that this not the first § 144 motion filed by Arpaio in this case. Let’s set the Wayback machine a thousand documents or so back in the Melendres docket to February 23, 2009, when the Melendres case was under a different judge, U.S. District Judge Mary Murguia. Arpaio filed a motion for recusal then:

Defendants Joseph M. Arpaio, Maricopa County, and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 144 and 28 U.S.C. § 455, and also pursuant to Rule 83.5, Local Rules for the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, respectfully submit this Motion for Recusal.

That’s why the current judge is someone without a Latino surname, G. Murray Snow. Filing TWICE under 28 USC § 144 appears to this writer to be a huge legal blunder.


It appears that this issue was not lost on Judge Snow, as we now learn, according to the Phoenix New Times reporting on the status conference:

However, he [Judge Snow] noted that the defendants in Melendres already had an earlier judge in the case, Mary Murguia, recuse herself for cause, and that the defendants may only be allowed to have one judge so removed per case.

At this point, the Judge hadn’t read the motion for recusal.


Joe Arpaio: There are no limits on how much money you can give me

imageArpaio is correct in an email solicitation as he writes:

Unlike a political campaign, THERE ARE NO LIMITS to how much you can give. Further, the contribution can come from any entity: business, trust, corporation, etc.

The solicitation was spammed1 to a broad mailing list of people who, I guess, have ever been associated with Republicans or conservatives—not just prior Arpaio contributors. Just in the past 2 years, Arpaio has spend around $3 million dollars in fundraising for his political campaign, so I guess he has access to some serious mailing lists.

Arpaio would make it seem like he has tremendous legal bills from just doing his job as sheriff. In fact, most of these tens of millions of dollars in legal defense costs are borne by Maricopa County. It is this recent contempt of court flap that the County isn’t paying for.

There’s a sucker born every minute.
–David Hannum

Read more:

  • Controversy over Sheriff Arpaio’s fundraising letter (Fox 10 Phoenix)

1The emails came through Bluehornet, which is considered to be a spammer.

Are birthers right wing authoritarians?

I’m reading this neat book called “The Authoritarians” by Prof. Bob Altemeyer. Thanks to bgansel9 for suggesting the book. Altemeyer has developed a test for authoritarians, and he found that most of them are right-wing politically.

In the book, we find studies that correlate high RWA’s with other characteristics, and some of these seem to fit Internet birthers (birthers who comment on the Internet).

Chapter 3 of the book has a list of characteristics for these authoritarians. What follows each topic is a brief excerpt from the book in italics, selected to most closely sound like birthers.

How Authoritarian Followers Think

Illogical Thinking

Intrigued, I gave the inferences test that Mary Wegmann had used to two large samples of students at my university. In both studies high RWAs went down in flames more than others did. They particularly had trouble figuring out that an inference or deduction was wrong. To illustrate, suppose they had gotten the following syllogism:

All fish live in the sea.
Sharks live in the sea..
Therefore, sharks are fish.

The conclusion does not follow, but high RWAs would be more likely to say the reasoning is correct than most people would. If you ask them why it seems right, they would likely tell you, “Because sharks are fish.” In other words, they thought the reasoning was sound because they agreed with the last statement. If the conclusion is right, they figure, then the reasoning must have been right.

When I read that, I could not help but think of the birther reading of the Supreme Court case of Minor v. Happersett.

Highly Compartmentalized Minds

As I said earlier, authoritarians’ ideas are poorly integrated with one another. It’s as if each idea is stored in a file that can be called up and used when the authoritarian wishes, even though another of his ideas–stored in a different file– basically contradicts it. We all have some inconsistencies in our thinking, but authoritarians can stupify you with the inconsistency of their ideas.

…they don’t seem to scan for self-consistency as much as most people do.

Here I would point to the birther assertions that President Obama’s father is both Barack Obama, Sr. and Frank Marshall Davis.

Double Standards

I have found many other instances in which authoritarian followers show a double standard in their judgments of people’s behavior or the rightness of various causes.

I see this all the time, such as the demand for a double blind study to evaluate the Xerox 7655 experiments, while accepting extremely unscientific results claiming that Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery.


For example, the leaders of authoritarian movements sometimes accuse their opponents of being anti-democratic and anti-free speech when the latter protest against various books, movies, speakers, teachers and so on.

We see this in the censorship that appears widely on birther web sites.

Blindness To Themselves

… they have no idea how much they differ from others in that way. And most of the time they get it quite wrong, thinking they are not different from others, and even that they are different in the opposite way from how they actually are.

Birthers seem fairly unaware that most people who are well informed and intelligent disagree with them.

A Profound Ethnocentrism

Well, aren’t most people likely to trust someone who seems to agree with them? Probably, but people differ enormously in gullibility. Low RWAs are downright suspicious of someone who agrees with them when they can see ulterior motives might be at work. They pay attention to the circumstances in which the other fellow is operating. But authoritarians do not, when they like the message.

…the authoritarian follower makes himself vulnerable to malevolent manipulation by chucking out critical thinking and prudence 92 as the price for maintaining his beliefs. He’s an “easy mark,” custom-built to be snookered….

The birthers have a willingness to continue to believe Mike Zullo even though he is obviously stringing them along.

Dogmatism: The Authoritarian’s Last Ditch Defense

It’s easy to see why authoritarian followers would be dogmatic, isn’t it? When you haven’t figured out your beliefs, but instead absorbed them from other people, you’re really in no position to defend them from attack. Simply put, you don’t know why the things you believe are true. Somebody else decided they were, and you’re taking their word for it. So what do you do when challenged?

Well first of all you avoid challenges by sticking with your own kind as much as possible, because they’re hardly likely to ask pointed questions about your beliefs. But if you meet someone who does, you’ll probably defend your ideas as best you can, parrying thrusts with whatever answers your authorities have pre-loaded into your head. If these defenses crumble, you may go back to the trusted sources. They probably don’t have to give you a convincing refutation of the anxiety-producing argument that breached your defenses, just the assurance that you nonetheless are right. But if the arguments against you become overwhelming and persistent, you either concede the point–which may put the whole lot at risk–or you simply insist you are right and walk away, clutching your beliefs more tightly than ever.

I found debating on Birther Report that many birthers don’t have a clue what they believe, and when confronted with iron-clad evidence that they are wrong, then retreat to a more general position, like Obama is the worst president ever.


The Chapter 3 characteristics are not the only things I found that might link birthers to high RWA’s. One other is:

Authoritarian followers score highly on the Dangerous World scale…. High RWAs are, in general, more afraid than most people are.

I can’t say how afraid birthers are in general. Conspiracy theorists in general seem to think that the world is dangerous and that it is being manipulated by sinister forces. At least some of the denizens of Birther Report have adopted the idea that various government plots are directed at them, and their guns. Jade Helm 15 conspiracies bear that out.

What is really needed to decide the question is to administer the RWA test to a number of birthers and see how they score.

Stay in Melendres

Here’s the telegraphic version of today’s status conference in Melendres v. Arpaio:

Motion to disqualify judge Snow by criminal attorney for Arpaio. Judge issues stay of proceedings until motion has been reviewed by parties and judge.  Snow reserves right for clarification from defense. Snow may add oral argument. Hearing dates in June to be maintained. Arpaio criminal defense attorney objects to entire inquiry by Judge Snow and the unbridled authority of the court appointed monitors.