Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

October 27, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Catching Up with Senator Dennis DeConcini

  |   Video
  • For 18 years, Dennis DeConcini represented Arizona in the U.S. Senate. In the first of our four-part series, Catching Up With..., we find out what the former senator has been up to since he retired from public office.
Guests:
  • Dennis Deconcini - Former Arizona senator


View Transcript
Ted Simons
>>> Tonight we start a four-part series to bring you up-to-date on note worthy Arizonans who have left the political limelight. We start by catching one former United States senator Dennis Deconcini. While in Tucson in 1937 Deconcini graduated from the University of Arizona Law School in 1963. He went on to work for the governor, served as Pima County Attorney, and in 1976 he was elected to the U.S. senate. Deconcini was one of the Keating Five, a dark spot on his otherwise bright senatorial career. He mentions his amendment to the Panama Canal treaty as one of his best moments in the Senate. Producer Mike Sauceda tells us what Deconcini has been up to since leaving the senate in 1995.

Mike Sauceda
>> Former Arizona Democratic Senator Dennis Deconcini takes a playful punch from Arizona School Superintendent Tom Horne. Both men serve on the Board of Regents which controls Arizona's universities. During his time in the senate, Deconcini took an occasional hard punch but says he enjoyed his time as the senator.

Dennis Deconcini
>> It's the best job I've ever had. I served for grateful to the people of Arizona elected me three times. It's the best job there is. I don't want anybody to feel sorry for me but I never worked harder in all my life.

Mike Sauceda
>> Deconcini says he missed the Senate for awhile.

Dennis Deconcini
>> I don't miss it now. I did at first. Because I was so into it that it took me awhile to sit back and say, you know, it's okay that I don't work 12, 14 or 16 hours a day like I used to do. It's okay to go on vacation. It's okay to read a book. So I serve on a lot of boards. I was just the past president of the board of directors of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. That's the one that John Walsh, America's Most Wanted Started. I helped when I was in the senate put earmarks in to find these missing children. And then I went on that board. And I was on the board of an orphanage in Nairobi started by a Jesuit priest. And I just went off that board last year. And then of course I’m on the board of regents thanks to Governor Napolitano's and the Republican Senate approving me to serve there. And so, you know, I have enough to do. Plus some corporate boards I sit on. And I still have a business in Washington, D.C.

Mike Sauceda
>> Deconcini's Washington, D.C. lobbying firm keeps him on the Beltway several times a year. He still has a law firm in Tucson although he doesn't do much legal work. He says most of his time is spent in Tucson although he has a summer home in La Jolla, California to escape the heat. Deconcini also served on the board of Freddie Mac in the mid 90s. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Corrections Board of America, a private prison firm. Deconcini also recently authored a book, "Senator Dennis Deconcini from the center of the aisle."

Dennis Deconcini
>> I wrote a book with a guy named Jack August. It's -- I kiddingly say I’m going to market it as a sleep inducement book. If you read this book it will put you to sleep if you have trouble sleeping. But it was an interesting experience. It's quite an experience when you haven't ever written a book. The most I've ever written is a couple of articles or papers in the university or law school.

Dennis Deconcini
>> The wording there if you look on page 406 if anybody's interested, --

Mike Sauceda
>> Takes a lot of his time as the board of regents. He was appointed to the board in 2006.

Dennis Deconcini
>> We have six meetings, seven next year, then you have a couple of committee meetings every quarter. So it takes a lot of time, a lot of reading. I really enjoy it, because when I was in the senate I used to work with these universities for appropriations primarily. And getting them money. And I was involved in them. And I even got so I knew kind of the politics of the academic world, which always intrigued me. And I enjoyed working with our universities. We've got three really fantastic universities.

Mike Sauceda
>> Being out of the senate allowed Deconcini to travel.

Dennis Deconcini
>> I have relatives still in northern Italy. And I like Italy. My wife is Irish. And so she likes Italy, too. I like Ireland, too. But we do a lot of that kind of travel. I’m on the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children's board which is in Brussels. So we have a couple of meetings in Europe. We may have one in Egypt this year because they have joined us in trying to track down the abuse and trafficking of children and women and their children through intercountries. And it's a big, big problem. So we do quite a bit of that. And my life is really good. I want to cross myself and thank the Lord.

Mike Sauceda
>> It also allowed him to spend more time with his family in very meaningful ways.

Dennis Deconcini
>> Last thanksgiving I took five of them two of my two daughters and their spouses to Africa to see this aids orphanage and the children there. And we spent three days with these terrible conditions that these people live in. And the aids assistance that is given there. You see your granddaughter and your grandson sitting in a little place that is maybe one eighth the size of this which is the mother sitting there. And she has two small children there and a brand-new baby. And they all are H.I.V. positive. And her husband has AIDS, who is now gone. Because many of them have multiple wives. And to hold that child and see that this orphanage called Neobani which means "children of God" in Swahili is giving them food supplement and medicines. And they live in a shack with no running water and a little bit of electricity. And the largest slum in the world, called Kabera in Nairobi, you watch your grandchildren and you know it's making an impression.

Mike Sauceda
>> As for the future?

Dennis Deconcini
>> I like to help my grandchildren get college. I’m setting aside savings for them with this economic crisis in the country turns around becau

Housing Crisis

  |   Video
  • Fred Karnas, Director of the Arizona Department of Housing talks about what Arizona and the federal government are doing to help people caught up in the housing crisis.
Guests:
  • Fred Karnas - Director, Arizona Department of Housing
Category: Business/Economy

View Transcript
Ted Simons
>> Good evening and welcome to Horizon. I’m Ted Simons. In these tough economic times, many Arizonans are struggling to hold onto their homes while others are finding it difficult to buy a house. Both the state and federal governments are providing relief to those caught up in the housing crisis. Here to tell us what they're doing is Fred Karnas, director of the Arizona Department of Housing. Good to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.

Fred Karnas
>> Good to be here, Ted.

Ted Simons
>> Let's talk first about the housing Arizona initiative. What is that?

Fred Karnas
>> It's an initiative led by the governor to address the economic problems faced by two elements of the community, one being those facing foreclosure and those who are facing homelessness.

Ted Simons
>> Give us an example. Start with the foreclosure aspect. If someone is looking at foreclosure, how does the initiative help them?

Fed Karnas
>> Well, the initiative helps them a number of ways. Using state housing trust fund dollars, we use that to connect with some of the federal dollars that have come to the state. But the most important thing is encouraging folks first of all to contact their lenders. If they're in trouble, call their lender, call 1-877-448-1211 and get the hot line but get some help right away early on. Or go to the governor's website. And there's a place on the website that talks about feeling the economic crunch. You can get all kinds of information both about foreclosures and other things you might be facing.

Ted Simons
>> It's at once informational but also there are tangible things that can be helped, correct?

Feed Karnas
>> Absolutely. One of the things we've put into place over the last few months, there are a number of housing counseling agencies across the state. The housing initiative dollars plus federal dollars have helped them to sort of change their business from being working with first time homeowners to working with folks who are facing foreclosure. So if you're having trouble getting to your lender or convincing your lender they ought to pay attention to your situation, call that number and that counselor will help you sort of work throughout process.

Ted Simons
>> Are investors and landlords included in this? Do they get assistance?


Fred Karnas
>>This is focused on homeowners who are living in their homes. There are a lot of folks who are struggling out there. But the reality is the investors are sort of taking a risk. We've got to give first priority to people trying to stay in own homes.

Ted Simons
>> As well as trying to get folks into the housing market, there's assistance for families for down payments.

Fred Karnas
>> Arizona has had a down payment program in the rural parts of the state for years. And the cities, and counties have their own down payment assistance programs and targeted to help folks get into their first home.

Ted Simons
>> How do you make sure, though, that these folks once they get into that first home can stay in that first home considering that was one of the reasons among many that we're in the cycle we're in right now?

Fred Karnas
>> One of the things that's really different about the down payment assistance programs that are offer not only here but elsewhere in the country is a real focus on education. Many of these folks have to go through eight hours of homeowner training, understanding that it's not just the down payment, it's not just the house payment, but what it costs to be a homeowner. And we found that of people who is gone through that training are much less likely to lose their homes or be taken advantage of in a loan process. And it really is important. We encourage everybody to spend that time to go through that course and learn about what being a homeowner really is.

Ted Simons
>> And for those who have lost their homes and may be looking at living on the streets for awhile, that's quite a change for them. What kind of assistance is out there at least as far as the initiative is concerned?

Fred Karnas
>> The Housing Arizona Initiative when it focus on the homeless side of things is really looking at an array of issues. Right now we're seeing an incredible increase in the number of homeless people on the streets in downtown Phoenix and other parts of the state. One of the things we really are trying to accomplish is targeting in three or four of the subpopulations of homeless folks who really need our help even more than everybody else. That is young people who are on the streets, people who are suffering from serious mental illness’s who are coming out of the prison system and we know for sure if you go from the prison system to the street it's almost a sure ticket back into prison. So those are critical populations. And veterans. We're seeing more and more homeless women veterans and we're looking at ways to try to reach out to them.

Ted Simons
>> Recently passed federal housing bill, how much money does Arizona get out of that?

Fred Karnas
>> In the recently passed bill we received $38 million at the state department, $121 million across the state for neighborhood stabilization. That's really targeted -- the winners are folks living in neighborhoods and paying their mortgages but find themselves with vacant houses around them. Their housing values are plummeting. There's crime and blight in the neighborhoods. These values are intended to focus on those targeted neighborhoods and get new home buyers into those neighborhoods and fill those houses up and hopefully stabilize the troubles that they've been having.

Ted Simons
>> So that's the attraction, that's the intent I should say is get those homes that are sitting there with the signs in the ground forever, get someone in there as soon as you can.

Fred Karnas
>> Absolutely. Trying to really get folks into housing as prices have come down and help these neighborhoods out that have been so hard hit.

Ted Simons
>> These things both state and federal are, these going to be more than band-aids?

Fred Karnas
>> Well, I think they one more tool, you know. I think both the counseling program, the stabilization program, this is a big issue in Arizona. It's going to continue to be a big issue in Arizona. These dollars are not going to solve the problem but they're one more tool we can use to try to help out as much as we can.

Ted Simons
>> Have you ever seen anything remotely like this housing/credit crisis we're going through right now?

Fred KARNAS
>> Absolutely not. I've been working on housing for 25 years and this is as bad as I’ve ever seen. It I think for homeowners, for folks that were on the edge and have fallen to the streets it's just really a hard time for an awful lot of folks. The ripple effect as we all know across the business community and elsewhere is having an impact also.

Ted Simons
>> Okay. So for more information, the governor's website, is it kind of a one shop stopping?

Fred Karnas
>> The best is to go to www.arizonagovernor.gov or call the hot line. And either of those you can find your way for foreclosure help or other kinds of help if you're being affected by the economic situation.

Ted Simons
>> Fred, very good. Thank you so much for joining us.

Fred Karnas
>> Good to be here.

Intellectual Laziness

  |   Video
  • Americans have become intellectually lazy, and it's costing us as a nation, according to Susan Jacoby, author of �The Age of American Unreason.�
Guests:
  • Susan Jacoby - Author, The Age of American Unreason


View Transcript

Ted Simons
>> Well, Americans have become intellectually lazy and it's costing us. So says author Susan Jacoby in her book "The Age of American Unreason." I spoke to her earlier about her career as a writer for "The Washington Post."

Ted Simons
>> Thanks for joining us on Horizon.

Susan Jacoby
>> So happy to be here.

Ted Simons
>> Let's talk about the concept of and think. Political, social and apathy. Worse now than ever?

Susan Jacoby
>> Apathetic is not the word I would use. People are heated up about this election for example. But what this follows on is we've been intellectually lazy. And that's when something like the economic crisis happens, everybody blames everybody else. It's someone out there in Washington, it's somewhere on wall street. Nobody thinks about their own part in it. And in this case, one of our parts in it is we're about 25th out of 29th in the industrialized world in what our children know about math. That's fifth from the bottom. You think that doesn't have something to do with people not knowing what a variable interest rate is? Laziness precedes apathy and then precedes anger when things don't turn out all right without your making any effort to educate yourself.

Ted Simons
>> So we're lazy now approaching if not playing touch and go with apathy. Is anger too far away?

Susan Jacoby
>> Well, I would say we're much more angry now. But one of the things we're angry about is we have this idea in America that things are automatic, that we're number one, that it can't be any other way. And one of the reasons people are angry now is that it's clear right now that we're not number one anymore in many areas. We're not number one in education. We're not number one economically as we've seen. And then what that ought to lead to is our asking ourselves, why aren't we number one? And in fact, a cab driver was driving me to the airport this morning. And he was an immigrant from Jordan. And he said, you know, this is the greatest country in the world. But people don't seem to think they have to work to make it that way.

Ted Simons
>> Does a crisis have to happen, whether it's economic, whether it's some sort of militaristic action somewhere either against us or by us, some serious crisis have to happen to get people's attention?

Susan Jacoby
>> Yes. And one of the major reasons for this are the same things that affect our politics. Our politics, you know, people always talking about Washington and politicians as though they were somebody out there in space who got there automatically. We elected these people. We let them do things without looking at what they were doing. And so I don't think that -- part of this is the whole responsibility shifting thing. And one of the reasons, we're captives of media -- what I call infotainment. We are captives of passive entertainment. The fact is the average American home has the TV on seven hours a day. In half of these homes people watch whatever is on. They don't care. That's double the percentage who watch whatever is on. Half of all kids under the age of six have TV’s in their bedrooms. What does it say about our preparation for knowing things when we are so dependent on all of our toys? You know, this isn't an original observation. But for the first time in human history, we're connected to these toys 24 hours a day. The iPod, the iPhone, the blackberry, iTunes, all of this is possibly connected to an entertainment apparatus every hour of the day. When you're doing one thick thing you can't be doing another. You can't play a video game and read a book at the same time. You can't follow politics and watch the Biggest Loser at the same time.

Ted Simons
>> But you hear folks say, I work hard all day. I’m stuck in traffic getting home. Or, I've got kids. I've got cooking. I've got my own job to do. What's wrong with sitting home at night watching a little bit of "American Idol" just to decompress?

Susan Jacoby
>> Nothing if it's watching a little bit of "American Idol." That's the whole point. Of course there's nothing wrong with watching a little bit of "American Idol" or whatever you fancy or "Mad Men" or ""Desperate Housewives". The problem is when the hour turns into two hours and three hours and four hours. The problem is when instead of reading to their little kids before they go to bed, the parents put the kid in front of a video and that's how the kid gets to sleep. It's a matter of proportion. It doesn't have to be either or. What we have done in our age of unreason and indifference to learning is we've gone overboard. We've imagined -- Thomas Jefferson said, if a nation expect to be both ignorant and free in a state of civilization it expects what never was and never will be." Barack Obama is right. Haven't heard much about this lately. Early in his campaign he's always saying what we have to do is turn off the TV set more often as parents, put away the video games more often, talk to our kids more, read to our kids more. This was in a discussion of education. One of the usual blame the teachers discussion. And of course there's plenty of blame to go around. But if kids come into school for the first time at 5 or 6 and they've been spending seven hours a day watching TV, it's not the teacher who's to blame for what they bring to school. People have to take some responsibility.

Ted Simons
>> There is an antiintellectualism underneath everything we've talked about so far and seems to be pretty strong. A pretty strong current in the country. Whatever happened to the concept of being elite? Elite is almost a pejorative right now.

Susan Jacoby
>> It didn't used to be. Elite was once an elite athlete is a world-class athlete. An elite surgeon is a world-class surgeon. And as I ask you, when you're having an operation do you want a Joe the Plumber type surgeon or do you want an elite surgeon? Or for that matter, also, I’m not talking about being an intellectual. There was a time in this country when everyone aspired to some level of learning. There's no reason that we should think of the essence of elitism for people to talk about Joe the Plumber as though people who are dropouts or happen to live in small towns are necessarily stupid. That's real elitism. There's no reason why any ordinary person -- you don't have to be a college graduate or intellectual to know where Iraq is located on a map, which two-thirds of the American people don't.

Ted Simons
>> Okay. How did we get there? And how do we move on from this? How do we try to get away from what seems to be, whether it's laziness, apathy, anticuriosity, whatever. How do we get past this?

Susan Jacoby
>> I think I’ll take the how do we get past this. The first thing, I don't have any easy remedies. But the first thing for beginning to get past this is we all have to be more aware of how we spend our time. It has to be brought to consciousness that it's not just something that we can blame on everybody else. But we have to look at how we spend our time, how we spend our time with our children, how much time we're spending on pouring junk into our heads, instead of trying to learn the things we need to know. Not just to compete in the global economy, which is what everyone talks about, but to be real citizens. You can't be a real citizen and not know that there are three branches of government. You can't be a real citizen and not know what the bill of rights is. And too many Americans don't. And this is why we're easy prey for stupid political talk.

Ted Simons
>> Last question real quickly: are you optimistic that we will change, as society in general will change?

Susan Jacoby
>> I think like a pessimist, act like an optimist.

Ted Simons
>> Susan, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

Susan Jacoby
>> Thank you very much.

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