Monday, February 18, 2019

As one of LD11 's Representative Mark Finchem’s constituents, I’m thinking he largely penned today’s shared op-ed in the AZ Daily Star titled “Bills see to improve oversight of education vouchers”, and asked Senator Sylvia Allen (AZ Senate Ed Cmte Chair) to give it some credibility by lending her name to it. His attack on the Save Our Schools Arizona folks as “lobbyists” is soooooo “him”. Give me a break. They are grassroots advocates led by a group of moms who were sick and tired of being ignored by school privatization zealots like Finchem. Their movement caught fire over the last couple of years because it was obvious they actuallywere/are “in this to help our children”.

Contrary to what Finchem would have you believe, they and other public education advocates don’t argue for a lack of choices for parents. In fact, public education advocates and education professionals work hard to ensure our district schools offer an increasingly wide variety of programming to appeal to our diverse student population. This has been one of the good impacts of open enrollment and charter schools which have been providing choice since 1994.

Finchem’s claim that “100 percent of current [Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, or vouchers] ESA students have unique challenges” is purposefully misleading. Education professionals understand that everychild has unique challenges and the ideal way to educate them would be to ensure an education program individualized to meet each of their specific needs. Unfortunately, Arizona’s public school funding doesn’t allow that sort of personalized attention as it is still $600 million short of even 2008 levels. Compounding the problem are the 1,693 teacher vacancies and 3,908 individuals not meeting standard teacher requirements as of December 12, 2018. This adds up to a total of 75% of teacher positions vacantor filled by less than fully qualified people, contributing to the highest class sizes in the nationand likely helped push 913 to abandon or resign their positions within the first half of the school year. When quality teachers have proven to be the #1 factor to in-school success, this is not a winning strategy to improving outcomes.



Those requiring the most personal attention, our special needs students, have had access to vouchers since the ESA began in 2011 and made up 58 percent of students on vouchers in 2017.Yet, our district schools still educate the vast majority of these students even though the state’s formula funding for such was $79 million less than what it cost in 2017to provide the services required under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This shortfall requires districts to fund the special ed programs (mandated by state and federal law), from non-special education programs (i.e. mainstream students). And while special education enrollment remains steady at 11.5 percent, the severity of disabilities (more expensive to administer to), have been increasing.

Of course, Finchem is "all about" those students “who have been bullied or assaulted and need ESAs to find a healthier environment in which to learn”. Again, open enrollment and charter schools already provide that option. And maybe, just maybe, if Finchem really wants to help students who have been bullied, he should focus on decreasing class sizes, providing more music and art education, and working to increase the number of counselors at Arizona’s schools? After all, there is nowhere to go but up in this area given our 903:1 ratio which puts us in “first” (worst) placefor the number of students per counselor.(The national average was 482:1 in 2018 and the industry recommended ratio 250:1.)

As for his HB2022 providing increased transparency and accountability because it turns over financial administration of ESAs to a private firm, I call total BS. Just look at private schools and private prisons and the amount of transparency they afford the public. The best way to ensure transparency and accountability is to keep public services in the public domain and hold elected officials responsible for ensuring such.

Wait a minute. Maybe I’m on to something. After all, when ESAs were first implemented, Arizona lawmakers were told that the auditing requirements were so weak they were “almost a sham”,but the warnings went unheeded. Not only did the Legislature expand the program almost every year, but “resources to scrutinize the expenditures - made using state-provided debit cards - never kept pace. Yes, some improvements have been made, but an AZ Auditor General audit released in October 2018found that ”Arizona parents have made fraudulent purchases and misspent more than $700,000 in public moneyallocated by the state’s school-vouceher style program, and state officials have recouped almost none of that money." Could it be that these lawmakers just don't want to be held accountable?

Far be it from me to point out that Finchem was first elected in 2014 and is now serving his third term in the Legislature. Why is he only now taking an interest in making the ESA program transparent and accountable?I’d hate to think it has anything to do with the fact that our new Superintendent of Public Instruction is a Democrat who is committed to finally tackling the problem. Upon taking office after all, Superintendent Hoffman immediately launched an audit of the Department of Ed and has now established a bi-partisan task force to look at ESA accountability.

If Finchem really wanted to show our kids how to work together,” he should be working to properly fund ADE’s oversight of the ESA program. Even the former Superintendent of Public Instruction, Diane Douglas (Republican), said “the misspending of the voucher money is the result of decisions by the Republican-controlled Legislature to deny her department money needed to properly administer the program.” Douglas claimed lawmakers resisted properly funding oversight because they wanted a private entity to oversee it. 
“If you’re not willing to put the resources into the oversight, then it doesn’t happen appropriately,” Douglas told the Arizona Republic.
Likewise, Republican Senator Bob Worsley said,
“My guess is just that the (Republican) caucus - my caucus - has been, probably, overly enthusiastic about ESAs, and vouchers in general, and therefore anything that would…make it more difficult, it would not be a high priority for them.” He went on to say that it is “neither fiscally sound nor ethical for lawmakers to inadequately fund oversight of the program.”
But, this is exactly what they’ve done. “Under the law, 4 percent of the program’s funding is supposed to go to the department to administer and oversee the program.” In 2018, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) only received about 2 percent or $1.2 million. Douglas said the full 4 percent was needed to properly oversee the program, but the Legislature had not authorized the department to spend $5.7 million sitting in a fund allocated for program oversight. Let that sink in. Finchem is up in arms about the need to introduce more transparency and accountability into the ESA program, but is part of the GOP-led legislature that hasn’t allowed oversight funds to be spent.

Most galling to me of any of his positions in the op-ed though is Finchem's admonishment that,
“it’s time for adults to start acting like adults and show our kids how to work together, even if it means working with people with which you may not always agree.”
This also is “him being him” as condescension is a tool Finchem has mastered.I guess when he showed total disdain for teachers (to their faces), during the #RedforEd walkout (and at every opportunity since), he was/is demonstrating how to work with others? I’m not buying it and neither should you. He is a blight on southern Arizona and I hope all those who care about public education, (regardless of where you live), work very, very hard to deny his reelection in 2020.

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

Trump declares Notional Emergency - and other Illustrated Gnus

Like a succubus visiting America in the dark of night, Trump sucks money from our national defense for his wall, his notional emergency. (Look it up.) Here’s what I had to say about “the wall” on New Years day.

WALL! (Sung to the music from Hair.)

Nancy’, give me my promised WALL, long beautiful WALL
Shining, gleaming, steaming, slats or concrete
Give me funds for the WALL, border length or longer
Here, baby, there, momma, no where can they be together
Wall,wall,wall,wall,wall,wall,wall,wall
Flaunt it, show it, Mexico can grow it, my WALL.

Kelly trumps McSally
When MarKelly met McSally

Here are More Mournday Mourning Mysteries and Magic from the AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

  • First president not to have a dog doesn’t need one. He has the GOP and Lindsey.
  • New AG passes congressional Barr exam: Executive power good, Mueller bad.
  • Mitch McConnell has figured out how to burn Democrats - vote against action on climate change.
  • The GOP version of the Green New Deal: more greenbacks for the rich.
  • What Kids Want To Know 101: “Why didn’t we get measles shots?”
  • What Denier Moms Tell Their Kids 102: “They’re bad for you. We learned that on Facebook.”
  • Trump stiffs federal contractors, offers them minimum wage jobs building his wall.
  • The Coultergeist, along with ProfHannity and Limburgher, takes over as new branch of government.

With that, I wish you a Happy Presidents Day.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The real emergencies

The Daily Star has a pair of great opinion pieces about what constitutes read emergencies (as opposed to the phony one touted by Trump).

Tim Steller charges that the Incoherent border emergency doesn’t trouble Arizona politicos. After ripping Trump’s speech into incoherent shreds, he tags our highest office holders with incoherent silence.

The president said this.

I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster. And I don’t have to do it for the election. I’ve already done a lot of wall, for the election — 2020. And the only reason we’re up here talking about this is because of the election, because they want to try and win an election, which it looks like they’re not going to be able to do. And this is one of the ways they think they can possibly win, is by obstruction and a lot of other nonsense.

And I think that I just want to get it done faster, that’s all.

Huh? He just acknowledged the emergency declaration wasn’t needed? That he just did it because he wanted to get more wall done faster? That’s weird. Even the Republicans in Arizona must be fleeing from this flimsy justification. What does Gov. Doug Ducey say?

Arizona has watched for decades as Washington has failed to prioritize border security. It’s unfortunate it has come to this rather than Congress doing its job. But action is needed. I support President Trump’s plan to secure our border.

Wait, but Congress just passed a border-security deal that even the president likes except for one detail, the spending on the wall. That’s how Congress does its job, making compromises. Surely senators like Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema saw through these sloppy justifications. What did McSally say?

I will continue to study the emergency declaration and additional funding proposal to ensure it increases border security while not adversely impacting our military.

Oh, so she took the brave stand of taking no stand. What about Sinema?

Congress just did its job, approving more resources for border security. Congress has more work to do on immigration and border security, and I will keep working with my colleagues to get it done.

OK, now we can see what’s going on. The president just made an incoherent argument that any borderland resident can see through, calling their homes the site of a “national emergency” even while admitting he just wants to build more fence faster.

Interesting how nobody in Arizona’s three highest offices dares to point out the obvious flaws that their own Southern Arizona constituents could point out instantly.

And then Sarah Gassen exposes Trump’s self-indulgent ‘emergency’ by identifying real emergencies afflicting Arizonans. Here is most of what she had to say.

The true national emergencies are happening one person, one child, one family, one school, one community at a time.

These real emergencies happen every day.

The emergency is when rent can’t be paid and your family is put out.

The emergency is a second-grader doing his homework in the bathroom because it’s the least noisy place in the one-room trailer he shares with a grandparent and four siblings.

The emergency is knowing you can’t feed your family without help because your job doesn’t pay enough to cover the bills.

The emergency is not having reliable transportation and needing to take your child to school and yourself to work.

The emergency is rationing your insulin because you can’t afford the full dose.

The emergency is sleeping outside because you have nowhere else to go.

The emergency is gun violence in our streets, our schools, our businesses, our houses of worship.

The emergency is a classroom bursting at the seams being led by a teacher with a master’s degree who must work a second job to support her family.

The emergency is a crime victim refusing to call the police because they’re afraid immigration agents will be called.

The emergency is a child coming home to find her mother has been deported.

The emergency is losing a loved one to violence — no matter the murderer’s nationality.

The emergency is an elder living in loneliness.

The emergency is treating drug addiction only as a law enforcement problem.

The emergency is neighborhoods where children can’t safely walk to school and don’t get a quality education once they arrive.

These are the everyday emergencies that have ceased to be seen as emergencies, because they’ve gone on so long.

They’ve slipped into the realm of neglect and that’s-just-how-it-is.

And they’re certainly not the kind of emergencies that come with rallies of cheering crowds and television cameras.

Watch Trump for any length of time and you’ll witness his need to be seen as the adored savior, to latch on to people who’ve been real victims so he can play them for sympathy, appropriating their pain in his desperate need for approval.

Trump’s declaration of an emergency sets a dangerous precedent for the country, and it speaks to the hollowness of his agenda.

There is no hero worship to be had in feeding hungry children, no fame attached to giving families a safe place to live.

There’s no adoring crowd in putting together a food box for your neighbors or paying teachers what they’re worth.

Responding to these emergencies is far more important to our national safety than Trump’s wall could ever be.

No country or community can be safe or secure when so many of its people live every day without either.

When it comes to catastrophic climate change, it's OK to be afraid. Hit the panic button. You owe it to yourself and the planet.

The planet is getting warmer in catastrophic ways. And fear may be the only thing that saves us. That’s the central message in the NY Times op-ed Time to Panic By David Wallace-Wells (Mr. Wallace-Wells is the author of the forthcoming “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming.”)

The bottom line is that climate change is not as bad as you think - it’s worse, far, far worse. So it is OK to panic, to be freaked out by dire climate news. Think of your fear as an adaptive response, as a logical reaction, even as a moral imperative. If our species does not react adaptively, then here is what is assuredly going to happen.

Snippets follow.

In October, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released what has become known as its “Doomsday” report — “a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen,” as one United Nations official described it — detailing climate effects at 1.5 and two degrees Celsius of warming (2.7 and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). At the opening of a major United Nations conference two months later, David Attenborough, the mellifluous voice of the BBC’s “Planet Earth” and now an environmental conscience for the English-speaking world, put it even more bleakly: “If we don’t take action,” he said, “the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

[However] … globally, emissions are still growing, and the time we have to avert what is now thought to be catastrophic warming — two degrees Celsius — is shrinking by the day. To stay safely below that threshold, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, according to the United Nations report. Instead, they are still rising. So being alarmed is not a sign of being hysterical; when it comes to climate change, being alarmed is what the facts demand. Perhaps the only logical response.

… Panic might seem counterproductive, but we’re at a point where alarmism and catastrophic thinking are valuable, for several reasons.

The first is that climate change is a crisis precisely because it is a looming catastrophe that demands an aggressive global response, now. In other words, it is right to be alarmed. …

This helps explain the second reason alarmism is useful: By defining the boundaries of conceivability more accurately, catastrophic thinking makes it easier to see the threat of climate change clearly. … it was easy to develop an intuitive portrait of the landscape of possibilities that began with the climate as it exists today and ended with the pain of two degrees, the ceiling of suffering.

In fact, it is almost certainly a floor. By far the likeliest outcomes for the end of this century fall between two and four degrees of warming. And so looking squarely at what the world might look like in that range — two degrees, three, four — is much better preparation for the challenges we will face than retreating into the comforting relative normalcy of the present.

The third reason is while concern about climate change is growing — fortunately — complacency remains a much bigger political problem than fatalism.

… If we started a broad decarbonization effort today — a gargantuan undertaking to overhaul our energy systems, building and transportation infrastructure and how we produce our food — the necessary rate of emissions reduction would be about 5 percent per year. If we delay another decade, it will require us to cut emissions by some 9 percent each year. This is why the United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres, believes we have only until 2020 to change course and get started.

A fourth argument for embracing catastrophic thinking comes from history. Fear can mobilize, even change the world. When Rachel Carson published her landmark anti-pesticide polemic “Silent Spring, … it almost single-handedly led to a nationwide ban on DDT.

But perhaps the strongest argument for the wisdom of catastrophic thinking is that all of our mental reflexes run in the opposite direction, toward disbelief about the possibility of very bad outcomes. …

I know the science is true [but] … We are all living in delusion, unable to really process the news from science that climate change amounts to an all-encompassing threat. Indeed, a threat the size of life itself.

… unfortunately, as climate change has been dawning more fully into view over the past several decades, all the cognitive biases that push us toward complacency have been abetted by our storytelling about warming — by journalism defined by caution in describing the scale and speed of the threat.

… we live in a consumer culture that tells us we can make our political mark on the world through where we shop, what we wear, how we eat.

But conscious consumption is a cop-out, a neoliberal diversion from collective action, which is what is necessary. People should try to live by their own values, about climate as with everything else, but the effects of individual lifestyle choices are ultimately trivial compared with what politics can achieve.

Buying an electric car is a drop in the bucket compared with raising fuel-efficiency standards sharply. Conscientiously flying less is a lot easier if there’s more high-speed rail around. And if I eat fewer hamburgers a year, so what? But if cattle farmers were required to feed their cattle seaweed, which might reduce methane emissions by nearly 60 percent according to one study, that would make an enormous difference.

That is what is meant when politics is called a “moral multiplier.” It is also an exit from the personal, emotional burden of climate change and from what can feel like hypocrisy about living in the world as it is and simultaneously worrying about its future. We don’t ask people who pay taxes to support a social safety net to also demonstrate that commitment through philanthropic action, and similarly we shouldn’t ask anyone — and certainly not everyone — to manage his or her own carbon footprint before we even really try to enact laws and policies that would reduce all of our emissions.

That is the purpose of politics: that we can be and do better together than we might manage as individuals.

… environmental activism isn’t new, and [there are] groups that have arisen over the past few years, pushed into action by climate panic. But that alarm is cascading upward, too. In Congress, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York has rallied liberal Democrats around a Green New Deal — a call to reorganize the American economy around clean energy and renewable prosperity. Washington State’s governor, Jay Inslee, has more or less declared himself a single-issue presidential candidate.

And while not a single direct question about climate change was asked of either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential debates, the issue is sure to dominate the Democratic primary in 2020, alongside “Medicare for all” and free college. Michael Bloomberg, poised to spend at least $500 million on the campaign, has said he’ll insist that any candidate the party puts forward has a concrete plan for the climate.

This is what the beginning of a solution looks like — though only a very beginning, and only a partial solution. We have probably squandered the opportunity to avert two degrees of warming, but we can avert three degrees and certainly all the terrifying suffering that lies beyond that threshold.

But the longer we wait, the worse it will get. Which is one last argument for catastrophic thinking: What creates more sense of urgency than fear?

Scriber counsels caution when it comes to pronouncements by the enemies of action on climate change. They would instill in us a different kind of fear - a fear of the constructive change advocated by the author. As such, those fear-mongers represent a huge threat to human-kind, a threat to be realized in the near term. For along with our wired-in cognitive biases, this kind of fear promotes complacency and inaction and, as such, threatens the survival of our species.

What can you do? First, recognize that the actual state of affairs is even worse than reported in the target of this post (Time to Panic). The world has been changing in small ways that have flown under our cognitive radars. I mean “small ways” literally. Disappearing Insects Could Trigger Ecological Calamity reports Science Friday.

Decades ago, when ecologist Brad Lister surveyed the rainforests of Puerto Rico, he says there were butterflies everywhere. Birds and lizards too. Sticky traps put out to catch insects turned black, they were covered with so many bugs.

Not so today. That once vibrant forest has gotten quieter and emptier, as many of the insects— and the animals that depend on them—have disappeared.

Lister’s study has now been compiled with 72 others in a worldwide report card on the state of insects, in the journal Biological Conservation. Its conclusion is dire: “This review highlights the dreadful state of insect biodiversity in the world, as almost half of the species are rapidly declining and a third are being threatened with extinction.”

So what’s the big deal? Back in October I explained the Things threatened with extinction - black rhino, red panda, our food supply.

Look, even if you don’t worry about the black rhino’s fate, you should worry about pollinators going extinct. Those little buggers are responsible for 35% of the world’s plant crops. If the bugs go, we starve. “We are starting to cut down the whole tree [of life], including the branch [humans] are sitting on right now.”

The planet is losing biodiversity. In plain English, critters large and small are disappearing rapidly. To get a sense of the magnitude, the “sixth extinction” we are experiencing (and probably causing) is likely to be on par with the massive extinction that killed off dinosaurs. I raised the alarm back in January 2015 in Signs of the sixth extinction: What happens when apes rule the earth and more recently this month in Thinking in terms of the survival of human society.

Another thing you can do is get informed about the Green New Deal. The recent fact-checking should help you out: The Facts on the ‘Green New Deal’.

The End
A singed page from a book amid
the burned remains of a house by a wildfire
last year in Northern California.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The 'sad, embarrassing wreck of a man' stiffs federal contractors

Conservative columnist George Will calls Trump ‘sad, embarrassing wreck of a man’. Scriber thinks that one piece of evidence is how, True to form, Trump finds a way to stiff contractors (again). Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports.

The Associated Press published a good overview, highlighting a variety of elements in the final package, but the Washington Post flagged a point of particular interest.

Lawmakers grappled with a series of last-minute disputes Wednesday as they sought to finalize the deal, including an ultimately unsuccessful push by Democrats to include back pay for thousands of federal contractors who were caught up in the last shutdown, and – unlike the 800,000 affected federal workers – have not been able to recoup their lost wages.

Alas, this isn’t too surprising. Democrats, led by Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), pushed a provision to include back pay for federal contractors as part of the spending deal, but when reporters asked Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) yesterday whether it would be included, the senator replied, “I’ve been told the president won’t sign that.”

The issue could, in theory, be addressed through a separate bill, but its prospects are unclear at this point.

It’s worth noting who’ll be hurt by this. Some may hear “government contractor” and think of a giant defense contractor that already has considerable resources.

But in this case, we’re actually talking about a very different kind of workforce. As Vox recently explained, in reference to those adversely affected by the shutdown, “Up to 580,000 contractors, including cafeteria workers, security guards, developers, and IT consultants, could be missing out on back pay because of the impasse, according to NYU public service professor Paul Light.”

Federal officials could approve their back pay. The president doesn’t want to.

There’s something painfully consistent about Trump’s posture. After all, the Republican has spent many years stiffing contractors, indifferent to the toll on small businesses. Remember this USA Today article from three years ago? The headline read, “Trump’s Trail Of Unpaid Bills.”

During the Atlantic City casino boom in the 1980s, Philadelphia cabinet-builder Edward Friel Jr. landed a $400,000 contract to build the bases for slot machines, registration desks, bars and other cabinets at Harrah’s at Trump Plaza.

The family cabinetry business, founded in the 1940s by Edward’s father, finished its work in 1984 and submitted its final bill to the general contractor for the Trump Organization, the resort’s builder.

Edward’s son, Paul, who was the firm’s accountant, still remembers the amount of that bill more than 30 years later: $83,600. The reason: the money never came. “That began the demise of the Edward J. Friel Company … which has been around since my grandfather,” he said.

As we discussed at the time, a variety of working-class Americans – mechanics, plumbers, painters, waiters, dishwashers, etc. – were contracted to do work for Trump. They did the work and expected to be paid. Trump established an extraordinary pattern of simply refusing to write a check.

He would instead offer them a partial payment. If the business balked, Trump gave them an untenable choice: sue him, despite the costs of the litigation, or simply accept less than he promised.

As president, Trump is still finding ways to hurt contractors.

Trump's phony 'national emergency' pits convenience against the contsitution

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) has a few choice observations about the “national emergency” declared by Trump today (Feb. 15, 2019).

Trump’s emergency declaration represents a special kind of surrender.

Today’s emergency declaration is many things, but it’s principally an acknowledgement of a defeat. Trump has effectively surrendered. By signing the declaration, the president is admitting that he couldn’t get Mexico to pay for a wall, he couldn’t get Congress to pay for a wall, and he couldn’t turn to his vaunted negotiating skills to achieve his goal – because those skills don’t exist in reality.

An uncomfortable truth has been laid bare: what Trump billed as his greatest strength has proven to be one of his most glaring weaknesses.

With emergency declaration, Trump divides GOP, unites Dems (again).

The Washington Examiner, a conservative outlet, published a piece a couple of weeks ago noting that Senate GOP leaders expect “several” of their members to “join with the Democrats to block Trump from declaring an emergency.” The article added, “A second Republican senator, speaking on condition of anonymity, predicted the president would suffer major defections if a vote on a resolution of disapproval is held.”

Enough to override a presidential veto? We’ll soon find out.

To follow contemporary politics closely is to realize that many GOP officials are willing to balk at Trump’s radicalism, right up until it counts, at which point they promptly duck their heads and fall in line. It’s possible, of course, that Republicans will do exactly that once more as the process unfolds in the coming weeks.

But don’t discount the possibility of significant GOP defections on this issue. Republicans have spent quite a bit of time lately urging Trump not to pursue the emergency-declaration course. In fact, many in the party have warned the White House that the party will struggle mightily to remain united if the president follows through on this.

What’s more, as this fight plays out, Democrats will link arms against this radical power-grab, while Republicans argue among themselves over a policy they’ve already admitted is a horrible idea.

One of Trump’s core problems with his government-shutdown gambit is that he picked a fight that united his opponents and divided his allies. Today, the amateur president will make the same mistake again.

A quote Trump may come to regret: ‘I didn’t need to do this’.

Donald Trump delivered a series of rambling comments this morning about his emergency declaration, which was then followed by a rambling press conference. And while the president made a series of odd claims, and repeated some familiar lies, it was his response to a question from NBC News’ Peter Alexander that was probably the one thing Trump will regret saying.

In reference to border-wall construction, the Republican explained why he’s circumventing Congress and the legislative appropriations process.

“I want to do it faster. I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster…. I just want to get it done faster, that’s all.”

He quickly added that this isn’t about his re-election bid, because he’s “already done a lot of wall.” This is, of course, a rather delusional lie.

But Trump’s answer included an element of truth: “I didn’t need to do this.”

The president’s own explanation left little doubt that there’s no pressing “emergency” demanding unprecedented emergency action. Trump effectively admitted that he sees this as a matter of convenience: the American policymaking process would take time, and he’d “rather do it much faster.”

If you’re thinking these unscripted comments might be used against the White House in future litigation, you’re not alone. Indeed, it won’t be the first time.

Benen goes on to list several legal losses because of Trump’s ad hoc slips and concludes that “In a way, Trump’s opponents should probably hope he never stops speaking his mind so freely.”

So what we have here is a president sworn to protect the constitution and to uphold laws now sacrificing the constitution for reasons of convenience.

Trump fakes the numbers

And, he is unable to explain where he get the numbers he uses to manufacture this so-called emergency. Here’s some of the transcript from his announcement today - [Donald Trump unable to explain where his fake immigration crime statistics come from][kos] (reported by Walter Einenkel of the Daily Kos Staff).

If you haven’t already heard, Donald Trump declared a national emergency a short while ago in order to use executive powers to fund the construction of his useless border wall—the one that most Americans do not want. The one that even the Republican-controlled Congress didn’t get around to funding during the last two years of its tenure. Saying that Trump’s wall is a farce is doing a disservice to farces. The excuse Trump gave for building the wall, in between contradicting himself, is that there is humanitarian and security “crisis” at our southern border. To support this, Trump has spouted completely made-up “facts” about immigrant and violent crime rates.

All available government and private data contradict the Trump administration’s assertions. There are fewer undocumented immigrants coming across out southern border. The rate of crime among undocumented immigrants is lower than the national average for any group of people. This has been covered extensively in the media.

Trump took questions from reporters, something he loathes doing, since they ask questions and challenge him to support the stupid hateful ignorance that comes out of his mouth. After a cantankerous exchange with CNN’s Jim Acosta—already once suspended from White House press conferences for challenging Donald Trump—Brian Karem, White House correspondent for Playboy, used his time to follow up. He, like the rest of us, wants to know where the hell Trump gets his numbers.

Karem: Mr. President, to follow up on that. Unifying crime reporting statistics—numbers from your own border control and government—show the amount of illegal immigrants are—

Trump: You have 26 people killed on the border a mile away from where I went.

Karem: I was there. I understand. That’s not the question.

Trump: Do we forget about that?

Karem: No. I’m asking you to clarify where you get your numbers. Most of the DEA crime-reporting statistics show that drugs come through at the ports of entry, that illegal immigration is down, and the violence is down. What do you base your facts on? Secondly—

Trump: No. You get one. Sit down.

Karem: Could you please answer?

Trump: Sit down. I get my numbers from Homeland Security primarily, and the numbers I have from Homeland Security are a disaster. You know what else is a disaster? The numbers that come out of Homeland Security for the cost that we spend and the money we lose because of illegal immigration. Billions and billions of dollars a month. It’s unnecessary.

Karem: Your own government stats are wrong?

Trump: No. I use many stats.

Karem: Could you share those stats with us?

Trump: You have stats far worse than what I use. I use many stats. I use Homeland Security.

This person just took billions from national security in order to fund less national security, based on nonexistent statistics and crime rates that the people in his corrupt administration haven’t been able to cook up to match his dumb mouth yet.

Let’s declare some real emergencies

Nancy Pelosi summed up Trump’s bogus emergency in the New York Times this way.

"The president is doing an end run around Congress,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters. She suggested that Mr. Trump was setting a precedent for future Democratic presidents to act on issues like gun control — precisely the scenario that scares Republicans.

"You want to talk about a national emergency, let’s talk about today,” Ms. Pelosi said, reminding Mr. Trump that it was the anniversary of the shooting massacre last February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Seventeen students and staff members were killed. “That’s a national emergency. Why don’t you declare that emergency, Mr. President? I wish you would.”

Just so you know: here come the lawsuits. HuffPost reports that Lawsuits Against Trump’s National Emergency Declaration Start Rolling In. A Washington ethics group was the first to sue, and lawmakers say it won’t be the last.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Parkland - A year later America stands by while more of its children die

A year ago this Valentine’s Day a 19-year old gunman killed 17 students and staff at a Florida high school. A couple of days later, I took America to task reprinting my essay Guns 103: J’accuse - Our national failure and disgrace. Here is my closing indictment.

I accuse, then, most of all, the United States of America for its failure as a nation. I accuse the USA of failing “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity …” I accuse the USA of inflicting unjust injury on its citizens. I accuse the USA of fostering domestic discord. I accuse the USA of harming the general welfare. I accuse the USA of the dishonest equation of guns and liberty. I accuse the United States of America of accepting and condoning the deaths of its citizens.

In the ensuing year, nothing has changed. More guns were sold, more children died, the president ignored the problem, and the NRA continued to spend money on members of congress, and the nation offered up its “thoughts and prayers.”

Now on the one-year anniversary of Parkland, a contributor at emptywheel.net, “Rayne”, writes a Mournful Valentine in which she indicts Congress for their useless thoughts and prayers , their inaction, and their hypocritical acceptance of NRA cash.

BTW: one of those members of the House, Martha McSally (R-AZ), is reported to have accepted $6,500 from the NRA. She is running for McCain’s seat in 2020.

A year ago today, fourteen students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida were killed by a lone 19-year-old gunman armed with an AR–15 rifle. More were injured.

Since then nearly 1,200 more children have died due to gun violence.

It’s an American problem, to have so much freedom and an inability to responsibly self-regulate it even though our Constitution clearly calls for a “well regulated Militia.”

The problem is as much money as it is guns. Money has been used to poison Americans’ attitudes toward guns; money has been used to capture legislators to prevent regulation.

The vulnerability of our society to corporate influence and control in pursuit of money has now created an opportunity for asymmetric warfare. Information assaults were launched last year by foreign-controlled bot swarms to propel pro-gun messages and suffocate gun control messages.

And the GOP-led 115th Congress did nothing in response because they were bought by NRA money, infused by Russia.

Oh, pardon me — members of Congress who received much of the $50 million in NRA campaign contributions in 2016 offered thoughts and prayers for the survivors and victims’ loved ones last year as the blood of innocents coagulated and dried on the floor of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Stuff your thoughts and prayers sideways, you useful idiots with your mouths flapping platitudes, you fifth columnists with your grasping hands out, greedy for more blood money for your next campaign. They are as helpful today as they were a year ago.

Don’t think for a moment we can’t see how you’ve obstructed the ability of Americans to defend themselves with adequate and timely gun control this past year. It’s past time to fix your disloyalty to this country and its children and pass effective gun control legislation beginning with the House bills H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 and H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019.

Rayne adds as an update the “list of the members of Congress SplinterNews listed as offering up thoughts and prayers via Twitter a year ago after MSD-Parkland’s mass shooting and who also received campaign contributions for 2016 from the NRA. I was looking patterns and I don’t see one readily except for political party affiliation. The lone Democratic Party member to receive funds and offer platitudes was Tim Walz, now governor of Minnesota instead of a House rep.”