Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Peggy West: FAIL

You’ve either seen it or heard about it by now. The video and audio track was all over the national media Friday. Milwaukee County Board Supervisor Peggy West, whose official county profile proudly declares her to be the first Latina elected to the Milwaukee County Board, proposed a boycott of Arizona.

She opined, during a county board meeting, that it would be one thing if Texas, which is right on the border with Mexico, passed restrictive laws against illegal immigrants, and denigrated Arizona’s new law, referring to the state as being “a ways removed from the border.”

Everybody from CNN to Rush Limbaugh played the clip, and the blogosphere was ablaze with snarky comments about the kind of people Wisconsinites elect.

Peggy West’s 15 minutes of fame (notoriety) are over, and the news cycle has moved on. But her ignorance still resonates. It’s one thing for the average Joe or Jane to be unaware that Arizona does indeed share a border with Mexico, but quite another for a public policy maker suggesting a boycott based on her abysmal ignorance not only of geography but of current events.

A few moments later in her spiel, she refers to “the troops on the border” in Arizona, further demonstrating that Supervisor West’s brain really is out to lunch.

Of course, after the onslaught of media attention to her stupidity, Ms. West attempted to lie her way out of the situation, claiming she got passing marks in Geography in the Milwaukee public school system (another ringing endorsement of Milwaukee schools) and at Milwaukee Area Tech College, and that she knows Arizona borders Mexico, blah blah blah.

Her south-side Milwaukee constituents will only remember that she tried to “represent” for them. She’ll be re-elected to her 50-grand-a-year county board seat. ($50,679 to be exact.)

In the grand scheme of things, I guess it’s not that important for most folks to know whether Arizona shares a border with Mexico (350 miles) or if Idaho shares a border with Canada (45 miles). It’s one of the myriad things that fall under the category “if I need to know, I can look it up.”

I’m sure some curriculum consultant would tell me that there are far more important topics for teachers to cover these days than back in my grade school days, when we were shown a map with only the outlines of the states, and the teacher would point to one and we’d have to name it.

However, I do expect that an elected representative, prior to making a major public policy decision like boycotting an entire state and its products, would have spent enough time studying the issue (and I don’t mean “Googling it”, as Ms. West said she did in her spiel) to understand WHY the people of Arizona passed such a law.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask of somebody who holds a 50-grand-a-year job.


  1. In defense of Peggy West ... I have found that if you go to Google Earth and stand the planet approximately on its head and zoom to about the 3,400-mile-high view, and rotate it just right, the curvature of the Earth can make it hard to see just where Arizona and Mexico meet. So it might just be an honest mistake. I mean, in that view, Arizona kind of hides behind New Mexico, where Peggy couldn't go without her passport (I might be wrong about that).

    Boycotting a state because it is politically controlled by Right-wing xenophobes doesn't strike me as much of a solution. Don't get me wrong, I find it advisable to give arrant stupidity wide berth, but the Arizona law is freighted with political calculations, so it is likely that stupidity plays a role of acquiescence, but does not drive it.

    We'll never stop politicians from grandstanding for the delectation of their constituents - unless we scrap our political system, which persistently rewards liars and numbskulls and demagogues. Truth be told, we’re probably stuck with what we've got; the current setup seems fairly well entrenched.

    On the whole, I think it would be more productive if we all quit dithering about the symptoms (the Arizona law) and got to work fixing the problem (illegal immigration).

    As our blogger articulately explained in a post a couple of months ago (read it here: http://bit.ly/aIMBya), creating an immigration policy that serves the country's needs is the federal government's obligation. Arizona's constitutionally prickly law is no solution; it's likely to do the state's economy more harm than good. But the underlying motive seems to be something we all could agree on.

    If we really want this problem fixed, it would almost certainly be more effective and meaningful for us to raise hob with Congress and the White House about this issue than to skip watching Phoenix Suns games.

  2. Colonel,

    >> I’m sure some curriculum consultant would tell me that there are far more important topics for teachers to cover these days than back in my grade school days, when we were shown a map with only the outlines of the states, and the teacher would point to one and we’d have to name it. <<

    There is some hope. My daughter's social studies teacher -- not the same one who's led his 5th graders to three statewide Stock Market Game championships in a row, but his next-door neighbor in the school -- got his kids to learn all the states with that very same device. Eleanor used plain old memorization to learn the states.

    I missed the 15 minutes of furor over Ms. West's lack of geographical sophistication. I'm more concerned with the fact that she wants to join this stupid boycott movement. The height of absurdity had to have been the Phoenix Suns' "boycott" on Cinco de Mayo where they dyed their jerseys purple and changed the team name on them to say "Los Suns"...combining silly politics with faulty language. At least they could have printed "Los Sols".

    As to "...it's likely to do the state's economy more harm than good," that's very hard to say. Since it appears that a solid 60-70% of folks nationwide are in favor of the law, I can't see as how a boycott could last. I figure that it might be as effective as those "Gas Out" days where gas stations are "boycotted" for a single day.

    The Town Crank