Tuesday, May 22, 2018

No end in sight - Texas decides gun rights are worth a pile of dead kids

What's wrong with this picture
What's wrong with this picture?

This morning’s Daily Star carried this AP report on the Santa Fe school shooting: School shooting may not bring change to gun-loving Texas. Check that. The AP meant to say “School shootings will never bring change to gun-loving Texas.” The subtitle should have read “Thoughts and prayers from Texas governor are ineffective in stopping killing of Texas kids.”

Get it? That’s “What’s wrong with this picture.”

Here are snippets.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas has more than 1.2 million licensed handgun owners who can openly carry their weapons in public. The state hosted the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting two weeks ago. And until Monday, the governor’s re-election website was raffling off a shotgun.

Guns are so hard-wired into Texas culture that last week’s deadly rampage at Santa Fe High School is considered unlikely to result in any significant restrictions on access to weapons in the Lone Star State.

Abbott and Texas Republicans have embraced a steady relaxation of gun laws in recent years. Since 2013, Texas has reduced the cost and hours of training needed to be licensed to carry a handgun, allowed “open carry” for handgun license holders, and allowed concealed handguns in college classrooms and dorms.

In 2015, Abbott tweeted he was “embarrassed” that Texas lagged behind California in gun sales. In 2017, he bragged about his accuracy with a pistol at a shooting range. In a speech to the NRA convention in Dallas, Abbott said, “The problem is not guns. The problem is hearts without God. It is homes without discipline and communities without values.”

On Monday, Abbott’s re-election campaign scaled back its shotgun raffle in the wake of the Santa Fe shooting, replacing it with a raffle for a $250 gift certificate. A photograph of the governor aiming a shotgun was removed.

As a journalistic exercise, try rewriting the above snippets substituting “United States” for “Texas” and “President” for “Governor.”

Then think about what always precedes a school shooting …

It’s the thoughts and prayers that always follow the last shooting and thus are predictive of the next school shooting. lf we stop with the thoughts and prayers already and substitute some serious gun control we just might reduce the number of kids killed.

That won’t happen. Why not, you might ask. Texas is the clearest example today of the cancer that eats away at the moral heart of America. Retitled, “School shootings will never bring change to gun-loving America.” Our country has decided that so-called gun rights are worth a pile of dead kids.

And check that. American gun rights, we have decided, are worth piles of dead kids. And there is no end in sight.

Monday, May 21, 2018

This Mournday Mourning's selection of Illustrated News

Here is the link to AZBlueMeanie’s Mournday Mourning Illustrated News aka Cartoon of The Week.

In Election 2018 'The Democrats are coming.' But which ones and how Democratic?

“The Democrats are coming” and the Republicans know it. That’s the reporting by the AP in Democrats get giddy about a perennial target: Arizona featured in this morning’s Daily Star. There’s a lot of good news there. Here are some examples.

Democrats hope that a primary between three Republicans helps them get a shot at an open U.S. Senate seat that could determine which party controls the chamber. Tens of thousands of Arizona teachers are newly mobilized after recent walkouts that won them a 20 percent pay increase over three years and drew attention to the $1.5 billion in cuts the GOP-controlled state government has made to K–12 education since the Great Recession.

Republicans know they have their work cut out for them. “I think it’s going to be a force that we’re going to have to reckon with, for sure,” said former Gov. Jan Brewer. “A sleeping giant was awoke, they’re awake and alive and they’re out there and they want change,” she said of energized teachers.

Chuck Coughlin, a veteran GOP consultant in Phoenix, said the party’s greatest challenge will be in the Senate race. The Democrat running for the seat being relinquished by Sen. Jeff Flake, Rep. Kirsten Sinema, faces no major primary opposition and has been running ads for weeks introducing herself to voters as a common-sense centrist.

Whoa! Let’s explore that one by the numbers.

This last Saturday evening (May 20, 2018) at the Pima County Democratic Party Udall dinner, one of the featured speakers was US Senate candidate Krysten Sinema. Given that the dinner was a celebration of two awards and capped by a rousing speech by Tom Steyer, I had to wonder why Sinema, as opposed to any other candidate in any other race, was given time at the mic. I can’t remember what she had to say. But apparently the party faithful, including the DCCC, has anointed her. And all that reminded me of some reactions to Sinema’s announcement of her candidacy back in the Fall of 2017.

My own reaction to the announcement appeared on this blog on October 1st, 2017: Kyrsten Sinema wants to be a Senator. Here are reasons why she should not be.. Here’s a snippet.

… According to the FiveThirtyEight tracking, Sinema does vote exactly 50.0% of the time in accord with what Trump supports. See Tracking Congress In The Age Of Trump. It is “An updating tally of how often every member of the House and the Senate votes with or against the president.” However, the more telling observation is the “Trump Plus/Minus Score” which is the “Difference between a member’s actual and predicted Trump-support scores.” Based on Trump’s share of the vote in the 2016 election, Sinema is predicted to have voted with Trump 28.6% of the time. Instead she voted with Trump 50% of the time. The difference is 21.5%. I sorted the entire House of Representatives on that difference score and found that only two Democrats were more extreme on that measure than Sinema. That is, she is the third highest of all 194 Democratic members (top 1.5%) of the House in terms of her support for Trump. …

UPDATE: As of today, May 20, 2018, Sinema has edged up a tad. She now votes 56.9% with Trump. The predicted score is 32.7% for a difference of 24.2%. She moved from the third highest to now the second highest of all 194 House Democrats in support of Trumpist positions putting her in the top 1%.

AZBlueMeanie had more to say about Sinema’s evolution in his September 30, 2017 post, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema to run for U.S. Senate.

I have never been a big fan of Representative Kyrsten Sinema, even when she was in the state legislature. My discomfort with her is that she appears to me to be “all show and no substance.” [_Scriber_: Now I don’t feel bad for not recalling her speech last night.] She is not much of a policy wonk, and has a slim legislative record. Of course, she has always been in the minority, so that is a contributing factor.

After her election to the House of Representatives, Sinema joined the conservative Democrat Blue Dog Coalition, and more recently the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus with her fellow Arizona congresswoman Martha McSally.

I’m not sure how one evolves from being a Ralph Nader Green Party “lefty” liberal to a conservative Blue Dog Democrat. That seems rather chameleon to me, adopting whatever one’s circumstances dictate in order to survive politically. That speaks to more ambition than a principled politician. But then, this is Arizona where this can be said just about every politician.

On the same day, Joel Feinman offered some scathing observations about Sinema.

The Three Problems with Kyrsten Sinema or: How Democrats Learned to Stop Worrying and Welcome the Apocalypse was posted on October 1, 2017 by Joel Feinman in the Politics section of his PimaLiberator blog. It resurfaced yesterday in an alert from my readers citing the essay on Feinman’s Facebook page (h/t Carolyn Chausee via Miriam Lindmeier). Below are excerpts from his blog, but you really must read the whole thing in which he cites chapter and verse about Sinema’s votes. Democrats’ forgiveness of them speak ill of the future of our party.

… social media is already ringing with calls for Democrats to unify behind and vote for Ms. Sinema in the general election next November, because “she’s the only real candidate” and “she’s better than (Republican).”

The problem with these pleas is that Ms. Sinema embodies everything that is wrong with the Democratic Party. Her candidacy, even or perhaps especially if successful, will remind Americans once again just how little Democrats seem to care about electing real, inspiring leaders to public office who will change our state and our country for the better.

Everyday seems to bring news that is worse than the day before. Mass shootings, war, unemployment, government-sanctioned white supremacy, environmental degradation. No person of reason can argue with a straight face that the social, economic, political, or environmental trend lines are positive. If the Democratic Party keeps excusing and supporting candidates like Ms. Sinema, in the hope that their election will somehow lead to a progressive political revolution the next election, or the next next election, we will proceed head-first into the abyss. If we do not today revolutionize our party and our politics, then one day soon the next election will be our last.

OK. I hear you say: Sinema is way better than any of her likely Republican combatants in the general election. As they say in Minnesota, Yah, Sure, You Betcha with all due sincerity. So was I reminded by Mrs. Scriber - who also was at the Udall dinner Saturday night. Here’s the evidence from 538. McSally votes 97.3% with Trump (vs. Sinema’s 56.9%). McSally is the 11th most Trumpian House Republican putting her in the top 5% of all House Republicans in terms of support for Trump.

But here’s another way to look at it. In terms of the "Trump Plus/Minus Score” which is the “Difference between a member’s actual and predicted Trump-support scores”, there are only 15 members of the House separating Sinema from McSally. And that is only a 3% difference.

So, do with this what you will. But remember 167. That’s the number of Democrats who were angered by some of then Rep. Ron Barber’s votes who stayed home in 2014 and thereby were complicit in getting McSally the CD2 seat. Which she kept in 2016. And which may now be her path to the Senate. And then the Presidency.

If you don’t like Sinema for Senate (and there are good reasons why you should not), what are you going to do come November? Are you (oh, hell, we) willing to accept McSally or Kelli Ward or Joe Arpaio over Sinema?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Lock him up?

Here, from Salon.com (h/t Paul McCreary), is a listing of reasons why we should flip Trump’s campaign chant to “lock him up.” What more do you need to know about Trump? Trump did it and he’s going down for a host of crimes, and some of them have nothing to do with Russia.

I’ve been “covering” the Trump story for over a year now, and I’m sick and tired of stacking up the details of his treachery day after day, week after week. What more do you need to know? He’s a lying, thieving, incompetent, ignorant traitor who conspired with the Russian government to steal the election of 2016 and illegally defeat a candidate who won the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots. His presidency is illegitimate, and his occupation of the White House is a stain on our nation’s honor and a threat to our democracy. History will cast him into the same sewer in which float the putrid remains of Benedict Arnold, Jefferson Davis and Richard Nixon. Impeachment would be too kind an end for him. He belongs behind bars, broken, bankrupt and disgraced.

Every day the front pages of the newspapers and the headlines of the cable news shows are filled with evidence of Trump’s lies and thievery. Look at what happened this week alone.

Trump started out denying that he even knew Stormy Daniels, then he denied having a sexual relationship with her, then he said he didn’t know about any payoffs to her. Monday, he filed his required federal financial disclosure form in which he effectively admitted making the $130,000 payment to shut her up just before the election in 2016.

The author provides a long, long list of Trumpian transgressions. Read the original salon.com story for many more.

… every set of stairs has a bottom and in Trump’s case, it’s the law. His lies and dissembling about Stormy Daniels came up against the law this week when he had to file his financial disclosure form. Lying or omitting information on a federal form is a felony, which is why Trump was forced to include the repayment of his debt to Michael Cohen which covered the $130,000 that had been paid out to silence Stormy Daniels in October of 2016. He lied about her and he lied about that payment until he came up against the law and then he was forced to tell the truth.

He has reached the ground floor with Russia and everything else. You can lie at rallies, you can lie to the media, you can lie to voters, but lies don’t work when they come up against laws. That’s where Trump finds himself today. He’s a lying, thieving traitor who conspired with a hostile nation to steal the presidential election of 2016 and he got caught. Not even his bone spurs will get him a deferment this time. He’s going to be drafted for the farm team at Leavenworth. He’s going down.

Your Scriber worries about which of our democratic institutions this wanna be dictator will take down with him.

The author, Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter.

Required reading - GV News Editor supports Goddard dark money initiative

This morning’s editorial in the GV News by Dan Shearer is really, really, really good. FROM THE EDITOR: Let’s bring an end to ‘dark money’. He’s on board, totally, with Terry Goddard’s dark money initiative. Here is the editorial.

Money influences elections. Sometimes it flat-out buys them.

That’s no secret. But whose money is doing the influencing is often impossible to discern. And, thanks to the Legislature, it’s not getting any easier in Arizona.

Terry Goddard wants to end that. He’s a former Phoenix mayor and state attorney general, and he’s tired of dark money — he calls it “dirty money” — calling the shots.

Dark money is a campaign contribution where the donor isn’t disclosed. Nobody knows who’s really behind the donations because the cash is often funneled through non-profits, which are not required to disclose donors, or super PACs, which can raise an unlimited amount of money. Goddard calls this money laundering.

The 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling opened the flood gates when it decided that donating to a campaign is protected under the First Amendment right to free speech. That means unions and corporations can spend whatever they wanted on political activities as long as they don’t collaborate with a party or candidate. That’s where most of the nasty fliers and TV commercials come from.

But Citizens United didn’t say they could hide their campaign spending, though that’s what it has come to, at least in Arizona.

What has this done to elections? The Brennan Center for Justice analyzed 10 Senate races in 2014, and found outside spending had doubled since 2010 — to $486 million. Outside groups (dark money) tossed in 47 percent of that. Much of that spending comes from outside the state where the election is being held. People who don’t live where you live are calling the shots in your elections. That’s fine as long as we know who the donors are.

But like Goddard said in a visit to Green Valley earlier this year, “In any debate, the first thing you should know is who you’re debating.”

He also said the cost of running a campaign has gone up five times since 2010’s Citizens United ruling.

“It basically meant that millionaires and billionaires became the political class going forward,” he said.

There’s another example much closer to home of dark money running amok.

APS and its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., don’t have to disclose campaign contributions thanks to Citizens United. They will neither confirm nor deny that they were behind more than $3 million in donations that helped get two Republicans elected to the five-member Arizona Corporation Commission in 2014 — that’s the board that sets utility rates, and APS is a utility. APS then spent millions more to get three others elected in 2016. The ACC now has five GOP members.

The ACC then approved a rate hike that allowed APS to rake in an estimated $95 million more from customers.

APS can’t be forced to open its books because the Arizona Corporation Commission — the board it helped elect with its millions of dollars in campaign contributions — has declined to enforce a subpoena.

Funny how that happens.

Tempe’s attempt

Tempe residents felt so strong about dark money influence that in March, they voted by a 91 percent margin to amend the city’s charter to require independent groups spending more than $1,000 on local elections to disclose their donors.

The state Legislature tanked that effort a few weeks later when Gov. Ducey signed legislation that pre-empts those types of local ordinances. The Tempe vote was rendered meaningless.

Ducey, who received more than $3 million from dark-money groups in his 2014 campaign, called it a win for free speech. (Four House Republicans and every Democrat voted against the bill.)

What’s the argument for allowing undisclosed campaign contributions? People who attach their names to a donation might get bullied, the governor says. Maybe we could edge closer to the truth by suggesting that companies putting millions of dollars into political campaigns don’t want their customers to know where their profits are going.

The Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank, can do no better than Ducey in laying out a defense for dark money. It says the dark-money proposals are overly broad and a violation of the right to privacy. But not much more than that.

The bottom line is that there is no rational defense for dark money — and there’s plenty of dark money on both sides, by the way.

Constitution change

Goddard says nothing less than a change to the state Constitution will fix the problem.

In short, his initiative calls for anybody making a campaign contribution over $10,000 in a two-year election cycle to “promptly disclose the identity of all original sources of major contributions used to fund that expenditure.”

In other words, the person who started the ball rolling on a donation that’s fed through non-profits or a super PAC would be identified.

They need 225,000 valid signatures by July 5 to get it on the November ballot, but are looking for 300,000 by June 5.

Locally, voters registered in Pima County (any party) can sign. You can find a petition at Democratic headquarters in Continental Shopping Plaza. But don’t let that scare you if you’re not a Democrat — this issue knows no party lines, though it’s true corporations aren’t happy with it and the bulk of support comes from the left. But there are several big-name Republicans in the state who’ve signed on, believing transparency in elections isn’t too much to ask.

Goddard likes to quote Montana state Sen. Duane Ankney, whose state adopted tougher campaign finance laws two years ago: “If someone is going to shoot me in the gut, I want to know who done the shooting.”

Sign on

Read more about the effort at outlawdirtymoney.com. To sign a petition, go to the Democratic headquarters in Continental Shopping Plaza, Suite 208, near Carne y Vino restaurant; or call them at 838–0590. They’re open Monday through Friday, 10–2.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Bill Gates rejects job as WH science advisor

His reasoning, according to Scriber’s Usually Unreliable Sources, was that “nobody fires Bill Gates.”

The Huffington Post reports: Bill Gates Says Trump Didn’t Know The Difference Between HPV And HIV.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates told his foundation’s staff that President Donald Trump didn’t know the difference between HPV and HIV when they met with each other on two different occasions, according to an exclusive clip obtained by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.

The clip shows Gates telling the room that in two separate meetings with the president, specifically recalling a March 2017 meeting, Trump asked him about the difference between the two viruses.

So I was able to explain that those are rarely confused with each other,” the tech mogul said.

HPV, the human papillomavirus, is an infection that can cause genital warts and lead to cervical cancer, while HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS.

Gates said Trump also referred to himself in the third person, reportedly telling him that “Trump hears that you don’t like what Trump is doing.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated millions to public health and development initiatives. In 2016, the foundation announced a $140 million donation to help develop an implantable drug pump to prevent the spread of HIV.

Gates has also spoken out against Trump’s “America First” policy. The tech giant told Politico in March that he planned to explain the importance of foreign aid to the president during their meeting.

“I’ll take his framework and explain why things like health security and continued foreign aid, even in that narrow framework, where you give no credit for saving lives in Africa, kind of pure humanitarian things, even without that, this is money well spent,” Gates told the outlet.

Trump reportedly offered Gates a job as a White House science adviser at their meeting this March. Gates told Stat News in April that he rejected the proposal, as it wouldn’t be a good use of his time.

When I read that last bolded quote to Mrs. Scriber, she thought it was from one of New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz’s items. Day by day during, the era of Trump, it does get harder to discriminate satire from reality.

As a test, go back and reread the first sentence of this post.

Who Pima Ds and Rs are liking these days

Find out what and who Arizona Republicans like. Larry Bodine (Blog for Arizona) reports on Pima County Republicans Cheer Kelli Ward, who Jeers McSally.

Republicans at this month’s Pima County GOP meeting gave rousing rounds of applause to tea party darling Kelli Ward, a primary candidate for US Senate, who gloated over her lead in recent polls, fawned over Ted Cruz and ripped into fellow Republicans Martha McSally and John McCain.

I can hear Kyrsten Sinema chortling about that one.

Earlier this month RepresentMeAZ sponsored a CD2 forum at Catalina High School. Bruce Wheeler and Billy Kovacs were the favorites, topping Matt Heinz, Mary Matiella, Yahya Yuksel, and Barbara Sherry. Who is missing from that list?