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Opinions: This is one strange city

The past week has been an eventful one, whether you were focused on the news of the global stage or merely what passed here in the Phoenix area. In fact, our university and the surrounding community have served as a miniature representation of world events, a diorama of international politics. After opening your eyes to this fact, it is my hope that you swell up with such pride in your locality that you'd think you were in Texas.

For starters, the College Republicans hosted a brave, open discussion on the climate change debate last Thursday, challenging the idea that global warming is caused by human activity. ASU geography professor Robert Balling spoke at the event, challenging what has become a nearly universal opinion in the scientific community.

One speaker gave the unconventional, yet highly lucrative, opinion that the rise of global temperatures will leave humans with a more pleasant environment. Courtesy goes to Exxon-Mobil for having the courage to donate, without persuasion, to his research — and double kudos to this newspaper for not reporting the fact. And yet again, the free market proved there is nothing that it cannot solve. In related news, Hillary Clinton came under sniper fire in Serbia.

Moving right along, the Undergraduate Student Government elections were held this past Monday and Tuesday — as if you didn't already know that (Boy, was it a thrill!). In an upset victory, Joshua Pittel's ticket beat out Mark Appleton's ticket by a slim margin; alleging voter fraud, the Appleton campaign appealed the outcome. However, neither side has made any excessive remarks comparing the other to (perhaps) outgoing Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe.

No, the only comparison to a lawless egomaniac is reserved for one of the Valley's best-known public figures. A round of seemingly unprovoked sweeps were carried out by Joe Arpaio's Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in the town of Guadalupe, stirring up outrage from immigrant and civil rights groups.

Did I say unprovoked? That's the wrong word. Being an immigrant, looking like an immigrant, living among immigrants — these are three egregious provocations for Sheriff Arpaio. He is an ugly, mean, stupid idiot that likes to be on television.

But back to telling jokes, though Sheriff Joe claims he was asked to carry out the roundup, Guadalupe officials deny that he was ever invited. "It's completely unwarranted," said an anonymous Guadalupe employee, who added, "Get it? 'Unwarranted.'"

But "unwarranted" is not exactly the right word. Many of the arrests were just follow-ups on outstanding warrants — though the tactics used are a bit more than questionable. In many of the cases, drivers were pulled over for minor traffic violations, asked for identification and then assumed to be illegal immigrants if they could not provide a license.

A similar sweep was carried out in the Palomino neighborhood in North Phoenix. While only a handful of people were arrested for being in the country illegally, thousands of dollars in business were lost, and more than 500 children were kept home from school by their parents, out of fear. Arpaio, without irony, claims the Palomino operation a success.

Arpaio also insists that his actions are entirely legal — though he's certainly willing to bend the law; using ordinarily banal traffic codes to check immigration status is a fairly large leap. Sheriff Joe hopes that the laws are changed to make it easier to find illegal immigrants, like a hunter who asks that game animals be painted bright orange so that they won't be confused with an other animals.

Though he has no legislative authority, Arpaio is nevertheless working on a bill — in slanted letters and poor spelling, no doubt — which will legally change the sound of his name to rhyme with "Robespierre."

ASU professor Robert Balling supports the bill, saying the jury is still out on the phonetics debate.

Kevin can be reached by e-mail at:

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