Thursday, November 15, 2018

Breathtaking Hipocrisy

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

There are many things to be upset about in today’s world, especially in the political arena. What probably gets my blood boiling quickest though, is the unadulterated hypocrisy I see coming from the Right.

According to the Arizona Capitol Times, AZ House Speaker Mesnard recently criticized Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes for his opening of certain Emergency Early Voting Centers during the General Election. He accused Fontes of selectively choosing where to open these centers and said, “those type of ‘shenanigans’ foster doubt in the public about the integrity of our election system.” Mesnard added that “And I cannot think of a more dangerous reality than people questioning the integrity of an election system.”

Okay, maybe he really does believe this. It is of course, something that any patriotic American should be worried about. Even if he does believe it though, his party and foremost, its leader (President Trump), has been stoking this “dangerous reality” ad-nauseam. And, the Arizona Republican Party recently jumped on his bandwagon with unfounded claims of deliberate election fraud by the Democrats.

At the same time, GOP Congressman Andy Biggs published an op-ed in the Daily Caller titled, “Democrats have a Civility Problem to Fix.” How about this Andy, you guys go first. I mean REALLY, the audacity! I find it beyond the pale that Biggs is lecturing Democrats about civil discourse. After all, his party’s fearless leader has been a master at fomenting hatred and polarization. In 2017, Trump’s first year in office, the FBI reports hate crimes alone were up by 17%.

In his piece, Biggs criticizes Congresswoman Maxine Waters for “incit[ing] criminal conduct by promoting harassment and intimidation of Republicans, conservatives, and Trump supporters. Okay, there may be some truth to his criticism, but she only responded to President Trump calling her “crazy”, “one of the most corrupt people in politics” and of being a “low IQ individual…somewhere in the mid–60s.” No, his attacks do not excuse her of any bad behavior, but let’s not act like she drew first blood. And oh by the way, what she actually said, was “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd” she followed later on MSNBC with a prediction that people are “going to protest, they are going to absolutely harass” Trump staffers. None of that sounds like “destruction in American politics. Especially not, in comparison to the incendiary comments and Tweets routinely coming out of the Oval Office. How’s about Biggs and his Congressional colleagues do their job as a co-equal branch of our government and act as a check on the worst impulses of this Commander-in-Chief?

Congressman Biggs goes on to write that, “I suspect we will continue to see masked domestic terrorists commit crimes against conservatives and reprehensible conduct toward conservatives.” I assume he is referring to the Antifa protestors who wore scarves on their faces, but I can’t recall any actual terrorism they perpetrated. I do however, remember James Alex Fields, the white nationalist who ran down Heather Heyer, at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Heather was one of the counter-protestors carrying signs promoting equality and protesting against racial discrimination, hardly the stuff of domestic terrorists. I also remember Cesar Sayoc, an early and impassioned Trump supporter, who mailed pipe bombs to numerous prominent Democrats and news organizations who had been critical of President Trump (their constitutional right as American citizens). And, I remember Robert Bowers, the white nationalist who killed 11 worshippers in a Jewish synagogue. Bowers is an anti-Semite who wrote on his social media page about his stark opposition to immigrants, especially the migrant caravan President Trump has been scaring everyone with (and now post-election, has gone silent about). Are these maybe the incidents of domestic terrorism Biggs is referring to?

I do agree with Biggs’ statement that there are “destructive ironies in American politics today, and they must be corrected before the foundations of our Republic collapse.” But, I suspect the ironies I see aren’t the same ones to which he refers. Rather, that people (especially those in Congress who have responsibility to care for our Nation and all its people), would march lock-step with this nationalistic (by his own claim) President and at the same time, pretend to hold the high ground. No side is totally blameless for the mess we currently find ourselves in. But, I think we have a better chance of finding our way out of it if each side just focuses on cleaning up their own piece of it before they resort to slinging mud across the aisle. What was that proverb about those living in glass houses?

2018 election update for Nov. 15 and a look at what lies ahead for the SoS race

Updated voting numbers

My reporting started with 0630, Saturday, Nov 10. Here are new results as of 6:30 AM, Thursday, Nov 15.

Numbers flagged with “+” favor Democrats. Numbers flagged with “-” favor Republicans.

I’m carrying forward previous results so you can track trends. For example, yesterday Sinema was beating McSally by 38,075 votes. The lead appears to have stabilized over the last three days; this morning it stands at 39,505 votes.

Observations
The numbers I report here may be close to the final results. Of note: As of last night (this morning), Katie Hobbs kept her lead for SoS with a 5,916 vote advantage! That lead has stabilized around five to six thousand during the last three days so I am thinking that Hobbs will be the second winner of a state-wide race, Hoffman being the other.

The good news
US Senate, Sinema vs. McSally: +20,102 +29,832 +32,169 + 38,197 +38,075 +39,505
US House, Kirkpatrick vs. Marquez-Peterson, +19,584 +22,563 +22,563 +24,768 +24,718 +24,718
AZ SoS, Hobbs vs. Gaynor, –10,696 –2,008 –424 +5,667 +4,957 +5,916
AZ Corp Com, Sandra Kennedy vs. Glassman, +1,602 +8,517 +9,747 +14,782 +14,461 +15,360
AZ Corp Com, Sandra Kennedy vs. vs. Olson n/a +4,642 +5,575 +10,473 +10,126 +10,960
AZ Sup/Public Instruction, Hoffman +31,809 +43,563 + 46,721 +54,057 +53,780 +55,102
AZ LD2 Senate, Dalessandro +9,494 +10,349 +10,349 +10,913 +10,913 +10,913
AZ LD2 House, Gabaldon beats Ackerley +6,930 +7,532 +7,532 +7,879 +7,879 +7,879
AZ LD2 Hernandez beats Sizer +7,114 +7,813 +7,813 +8,255 +8,255 +8,255

Note: Gabaldon and Hernandez have about the same number of votes. The pairing with Republican opponents was arbitrary; the difference in what I report above results from Ackerley getting more votes than Sizer.

Some of the not-so-good news
CD8, voucher queen Lesko leads Tipirneni, –29,455 –30,219 –37,518 –30,887 –31,374 +31,806
LD28 Senate, Kate Brophy McGee leads but not by much –616 –617 –643 –549 –536 +472
LD11, Holly Lyon is still way behind, trailing each of the R candidates by about 10K.

When will it all be over?

It seems to be a done deal for the Corporation Commission. Howard Fischer at the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports:

Republican Justin Olson will be taking the second open spot on the Arizona Corporation Commission.

New vote tallies Wednesday evening put Olson 4,422 votes ahead of fellow Republican Rodney Glassman. And while there are more than 100,000 votes yet to be counted, Glassman told Capitol Media Services he had no reason to believe he could make up the difference.

“On election night I was 4,000 votes behind Justin,” he said.

“Ten days later I’m still about 4,000 votes behind,” Glassman continued. “I have no reason to believe that there’s going to be any substantial changes.”

Glassman’s concession formally means that the commission, now an all-Republican affair, will have one Democrat. Sandra Kennedy, who had served on the commission between 2009 and 2012, was outpolling both of the Republicans.

Hobbs is leading Gaynor for the Secretary of State office and her numbers are pretty stable. However, the lead is small and there are lots of ballots still out there. Fischer continues:

In other results Wednesday, Democrat Katie Hobbs is making headway in her bid to be the next secretary of state, with her lead over Republican Steve Gaynor up by more than 1,000 from a day earlier. It now stands at 6,115 votes.

Hobbs is being propelled in part by the fact that voters in Maricopa County, where Republicans hold a voter-registration edge, were choosing her over the GOP nominee. As of Wednesday, Hobbs had a lead of more than 13,000 votes out of more than 1.3 million already counted in the state’s largest county.

She also picked up steam with another batch of votes from Coconino County where she is outpolling Gaynor by a margin of 2–1.

Gaynor has done better elsewhere.

Mohave County finished its vote counting on Wednesday, with 51,900 votes for Gaynor against just 18,774 for Hobbs.

In Navajo County, the final tally was closer, with Gaynor picking up 19,040 of the 35,970 votes cast there for that office.

But it’s not the votes that are already known that is keeping the ultimate outcome of the race in the air.

There also are about 19,400 ballots yet to be counted in Pima County. But election officials there have said they don’t intend to update their count until sometime Saturday.

Hobbs, currently a state senator from Phoenix, has been picking up close to three votes in that county for every two for Phoenix businessman Gaynor. But even assuming the remaining votes come in at the same rate — meaning perhaps 11,400 for Hobbs versus 8,000 for Gaynor — the ultimate outcome of the race rests with Maricopa County where Recorder Adrian Fontes said his office still has another 104,000 ballots to process.

To this point, the trend of early ballots now being counted from this county has broken in Hobbs favor, albeit just slightly. The latest tally has Hobbs picking up 50.5 percent of the votes tallied.

But at the processing rate of 20,000 a day, it could be days until either candidate has a sufficient margin to claim victory.

If Hobbs takes the office it will be the first time a Democrat has been in that position since Dick Mahoney, elected in 1990, left office four years later.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

In Trump's tax cuts Republican mythology meets harsh realities

Judd Legum alerts us to The harsh reality of Trump’s tax cuts at popular.info.

After Trump’s corporate tax cuts became law in December 2017, the administration rolled out dozens of press releases from major corporations touting benefits for workers. The cuts, the American people were told, would spur a hiring boom.

New data shows that, while job growth has been steady, it’s not due to the large companies that benefited most from slashing corporate tax rates. The largest 1,000 public companies have reduced their payrolls.

Just Capital research finds that, since the tax cuts were passed, the 1,000 largest public companies have actually reduced employment, on balance. They have announced the elimination of nearly 140,000 jobs — which is almost double the 73,000 jobs they say they have created in that time.

That was the short version. The NY Times reports in a longer version. Trump’s Tax Cut Was Supposed to Change Corporate Behavior. Here’s What Happened. Nearly a year after the tax cut, economic growth has accelerated. Wage growth has not. Companies are buying back stock and business investment is a mixed bag.

The investment bump

Proponents of the tax overhaul said it would supercharge the recent lackluster pace of business spending on long-term investments like buildings, factories, equipment and technology.

Such spending is crucial to keeping economic growth strong. And strong growth is central to Republican claims that the tax cuts would ultimately pay for themselves.

Capital spending did pick up steam earlier this year. For companies in the S&P 500, capital expenditures rose roughly 20 percent in the first half of 2018. Much of that was concentrated: The spending of just five companies — Google’s parent, Alphabet, and Facebook, Intel, Exxon Mobil and Goldman Sachs — accounted for roughly a third of the entire rise. Much of that spending went toward technology, including increased investment in data centers and computing, server and networking capacity.

However:

… that pace fizzled during the third quarter. Recently data showed third-quarter business investment rose at an annual pace of 0.8 percent. …

The results of a survey published in late October by the National Association for Business Economics showed that 81 percent of the 116 companies surveyed said they had not changed plans for investment or hiring because of the tax bill.

The Buyback Binge

Cheerleaders for the tax cut argued that the heart of the law — cutting and restructuring taxes for corporations — would give the economy a positive bump, giving companies incentives to invest more, hire more workers and pay higher wages.

Sure enough, a lot of cash businesses held overseas was repatriated to the U. S.

However

About half of it went to stock buybacks.

The flow of repatriated corporate cash is just one tributary in what has become a flood of payouts to shareholders, both as buybacks and dividends. Such payouts are expected to hit almost $1.3 trillion this year, up 28 percent from 2017, according to estimates from Goldman Sachs analysts.

“Skeptics said that the money companies saved through tax cuts would merely increase corporate profits, rather than trickling down to workers.” They were right.

Bonus Announcements

Shortly after the tax law passed, hundreds of companies — from large multinationals to small manufacturers — announced that they would be using some of their windfall from the law to give one-time bonuses to employees. Others said they would raise minimum wages across the company, or expand worker benefits.

However

Data from large public companies, however, suggest that most workers received relatively small shares of their employers’ corporate tax savings.

The nonprofit research group Just Capital, which is tracking 1,000 large public companies’ reports of how they are spending their tax cuts, calculates that the typical worker at one of those large companies has received about $225 this year in increased salary, a one-time bonus, or both, attributable to the new law.

For those who detest math, I’ll put it this way: your “typical worker” got a bump of $4.33 per week. Don’t count on that family visiting Starbuck’s any time soon.

The Wage Story … however:

Nearly a year after the cuts were signed into law, wage growth has yet to pick up when accounting for inflation. In September, the Labor Department reported that inflation-adjusted wages had risen 0.5 percent from the year before. That’s a slower rate of growth than the economy itself experienced in September 2017, when it was 0.6 percent.

Jobs promised … however:

Remember the opening quotes from popular.info? “… the 1,000 largest public companies have actually reduced employment, on balance. They have announced the elimination of nearly 140,000 jobs — which is almost double the 73,000 jobs they say they have created in that time.”

And then there is the deficit

That is to say: how are all these things that are not happening - other than for the corporate tax breaks - being paid for? You know the answer: with an ocean of public debt.

Supporters of the tax cuts repeatedly claimed the bill would increase economic growth enough to offset the decline in tax receipts. “I’m totally convinced this is a revenue-neutral bill,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, when a preliminary version of the bill was approved in the Senate in December 2017.

However

Despite a remarkably strong economy, the fiscal health of the United States is deteriorating fast, as revenues have declined sharply. The federal budget deficit — the gap between what the government collects in revenues and what it spends — rose to $779 billion in the 2018 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. That was a 17 percent increase from the prior year.

It’s highly unusual for deficits and borrowing needs to grow this much during periods of prosperity. A broad variety of analysts attribute the widening deficit to the tax cuts (along with increased military and other domestic spending ushered in through a bill Mr. Trump signed earlier this year).

The Times displayed the deficit trends in a revealing graph. Our yearly deficit maxed out in 2008 when deficit spending was used as a tool to stimulate the economic recovery from the great recession. Ever since, the deficit has declined. But that trend has reversed under Trump.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) has more: New deficit figures mark a fitting end to the Tea Party era.

In 2010, Republicans rode a wave into a House majority, fueled by Tea Party activism and a focus on “fiscal responsibility.” GOP officials and candidates said at the time that they were deeply concerned about the deficit “crisis,” which would impose crippling burdens on future generations.

Eight years later, in their month before the midterm elections that would push them into minority status, House Republicans saw the deficit reach $100 billion, fueled in part by tax breaks they didn’t even try to pay for.

The “movement,” such as it was, failed.

Postscript: Every time we discuss the deficit, I feel compelled to point out again that I’m not a deficit hawk, and I firmly believe that larger deficits, under some circumstances, are absolutely worthwhile and necessary.

These are not, however, those circumstances. When the economy is in trouble, it makes sense for the United States to borrow more, invest more, cushion the blow, and help strengthen the economy.

The Trump White House and the Republican-led Congress, however, decided to approve massive tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations when the economy was already healthy – not because they were addressing a policy need, but because they were fulfilling an ideological goal.

And now that the deficit is spiraling, those same Republicans have decided that what the nation really needs is more tax breaks – none of which will be paid for – and cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

2018 election update for Nov 14 with commentary on AZ's new purpleness, McSally's loss, and Sinema's win

Updated voting numbers

My reporting started with 0630, Saturday, Nov 10. Here are new results as of 5:30 AM, Wednesday, Nov 14.

Numbers flagged with “+” favor Democrats. Numbers flagged with “-” favor Republicans.

I’m carrying forward previous results so you can track trends. For example, yesterday Sinema was beating McSally by 38,197 votes. This morning the lead appears to have stabilized at 38,075 votes.

Observations
The voting seen yesterday continues to favor Dems this morning. However, the Democratic advantage has retreated slightly suggesting that the numbers I report here may be close to the final results. Of note: As of last night (this morning), Katie Hobbs kept her lead for SoS with a 4,957 vote advantage! The SoS numbers are still too close to call because the counting continues throughout today. If current trends hold, Hobbs will be the second winner of a state-wide race, Hoffman being the other.

The good news
US Senate, Sinema vs. McSally: +20,102 +29,832 +32,169 + 38,197 +38,075
US House, Kirkpatrick vs. Marquez-Peterson, +19,584 +22,563 +22,563 +24,768 +24,718
AZ SoS, Hobbs vs. Gaynor, –10,696 –2,008 –424 +5,667 +4,957
AZ Corp Com, Sandra Kennedy vs. Glassman, +1,602 +8,517 +9,747 +14,782 +14,461
AZ Corp Com, Sandra Kennedy vs. vs. Olson n/a +4,642 +5,575 +10,473 +10,126
AZ Sup/Public Instruction, Hoffman +31,809 +43,563 + 46,721 +54,057 +53,780
AZ LD2 Senate, Dalessandro +9,494 +10,349 +10,349 +10,913 +10,913
AZ LD2 House, Gabaldon beats Ackerley +6,930 +7,532 +7,532 +7,879 +7,879
AZ LD2 Hernandez beats Sizer +7,114 +7,813 +7,813 +8,255 +8,255

Note: Gabaldon and Hernandez have about the same number of votes. The pairing with Republican opponents was arbitrary; the difference in what I report above results from Ackerley getting more votes than Sizer.

Some of the not-so-good news
CD8, voucher queen Lesko leads Tipirneni, –29,455 –30,219 –37,518 –30,887 –31,374
LD28 Senate, Kate Brophy McGee leads but not by much –616 –617 –643 –549 –536
LD11, Holly Lyon is still way behind, trailing each of the R candidates by about 10K.

Reactions to AZ’s new purpledom Pamela Powers-Hanley speaks to why the balance in the AZ House shifted toward Dems and what to expect from the new House: Blue Wave Washed over #AZLeg: Seven GOP Incumbents Lose Seats. The AZ Blue Meanie declares AZ to now be purple: Arizona became a purple state in 2018.

Despite all the gloom and doom post-election day reporting here in Arizona about Democrats having squandered their voter enthusiasm and record turnout, as we approach all the votes finally being counted it appears that Democrats had a very good night after all in turning Arizona purple.

Arizona Democrats should feel more encouraged, enthusiastic and energized than ever going into the next election cycle in 2020. The Arizona legislature is within Democrats’ reach for the first time since 1966 (you read that right). Onward and upward!

Why McSally lost: Tim Steller explains why McSally lost in his Daily Star column, Arizona voters rejected Martha McSally’s negative campaign.

[The start of McSally’s loss] began, back in late 2017, with McSally shifting from being a Trump skeptic to a Trump supporter. This may have been necessary to win the GOP primary election campaign, but it was abrupt, transparent and probably a turnoff to independent voters. It also lasted way too long, through a literal embrace of Trump at a rally in Mesa on Oct. 19.

Before she had even won the primary, McSally shifted to targeting Sinema for her past as a radical protester. The infamous “pink tutu” ad, showing Sinema wearing the scandalous garment at a 2003 protest of the Iraq war, came out even before McSally took 52 percent of the Republican vote in the primary.

And then it just went on from there. Ad after ad — let’s not forget how ridiculously pervasive they were — McSally’s campaign and outside groups attacked Sinema as not just wrong on the issues but a dangerous candidate, someone who would let Phoenix be blown up by a nuclear bomb, as one mailer put it.

In their one debate, McSally brought up an incident from a 2003 interview of Sinema by Libertarian radio host Ernest Hancock, who in a series of hypotheticals, asked what her opinion would be of him going to fight for the Taliban. Sinema answered him, “Fine. I don’t care if you want to do that, go ahead.”

In context, it was obvious Sinema was just trying to brush off the host, not encouraging him. But this became, in McSally’s interpretation, either treason itself, or at the minimum promoting treason.

McSally told Sean Hannity in an interview: “I mean, this is unbelievable that she thinks it’s OK for Americans to commit treason. In any other moment, this should be disqualifying and she would withdraw, but the Arizona media mostly is ignoring it or making excuses for her again.”

By that time, though, most Arizona voters had tuned out the alarming critiques by McSally and her supporters. She could have accused Sinema of genocide and nobody would have noticed.

We can hope that the fact the voters ignored this — or even took it as a reason to vote against McSally — will discourage candidates from this sort of campaign in the future.

Why Sinema won: New Yorker’s John Cassidy weighs in on the import of Sinema’s U. S. Senate win in Kyrsten Sinema’s Victory in Arizona May Be the Democrats’ Biggest Win of the Trump Era.

… Sinema is the first Democrat to be elected to the Senate from Arizona since 1988, and the first Democrat to win an open Senate seat in the state since Dennis DeConcini was elected, in 1976. The firsts don’t stop there. Sinema, a forty-two-year-old congresswoman for Arizona’s Ninth District, will also be the first female senator from Arizona, and the first openly bisexual senator from anywhere.

Her margin of victory was a narrow one—about thirty-eight thousand votes, or 1.7 percentage points—but she won fair and square. Last week, Trump cried “corruption” as Sinema caught up to and surpassed the vote tally of her G.O.P. opponent, Martha McSally, a fifty-two-year-old congresswoman, who represents Arizona’s Second District. McSally made no such claim. On the day of the election, hundreds of thousands of early votes were dropped off at polling places, and each of them had to be checked individually to make sure the signature matched the one on file. Most of these turned out to be Democratic votes. On Monday night, McSally posted a video in which she congratulated Sinema and said, “I wish her all success as she represents Arizona in the Senate.”

What follows will upset most progressives. But the campaign details and substance carry a message for the Democratic electioneering going forward.

Like Nevada, Arizona is often cited as a state in which long-term demographic change, particularly the growing number of Latino residents, is favoring Team Blue. Right now, though, Arizona contains a lot more registered Republicans than Democrats, and Sinema’s electoral strategy reflected this fact. The demographic transition “is happening, but it’s not why Sinema won,” Andy Barr, a political consultant who has represented numerous Arizona Democrats, told me on Tuesday morning. “She won by running an extremely disciplined campaign focussing on what we call the swing demographic—college-educated women in the suburbs.”

As the Republicans sought to portray her as a tutu-wearing radical—back in 2000, she worked on Ralph Nader’s Presidential campaign—Sinema came out against two policies popular with progressives: Medicare for all and abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. In September, she supported a G.O.P. proposal in the House to extend the personal tax cuts that were introduced in last year’s tax-reform bill, which she opposed at the time. But she also talked a lot about traditional Democratic issues, such as health care and Social Security, and also emphasized her role in serving constituents in the Ninth District. “She portrayed herself as someone who gets things done and doesn’t get caught up in the partisan B.S.,” Barr said.

By campaigning as a moderate willing to cross party lines, Sinema attracted support from suburbanites and self-identified independents. She also exposed the fault line in the Arizona G.O.P., which is divided between the old-line Party establishment, which Flake and John McCain embodied, and a seething base of Trump supporters. Initially, McSally tried to straddle this divide, but she ended up embracing the President and his inflammatory policies. Appearing alongside him at a rally last month, she said, “America is back—and Arizona is back—thanks to the leadership of President Trump.” But McSally was defeated despite gaining Trump’s endorsement.

Looking forward to 2020, this outcome won’t be lost on strategists from both parties. In 2012, Mitt Romney carried Arizona by a healthy margin of nine percentage points. In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost to Trump by just 3.5 points, despite the fact that her campaign didn’t make Arizona a high priority until late in the campaign. “Any Democrat running for President in 2020 would be dumb not to invest early in Arizona,” Barr said.

Sinema’s triumph also sets the stage for a debate inside the Democratic Party about how to win red states in the Trump era. In neighboring Texas, Beto O’Rourke ran a barnstorming progressive campaign and came up just short. Despite alienating some progressive activists, Sinema hedged her way to the U.S. Senate. “There was some whining about that, but we were so hungry for a win that the Democratic coalition wasn’t complaining much,” Barr said. In politics, as in sports, winning covers up a lot of sins.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Balance is the key


Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

I just listened to "The Coming Storm", by Michael Lewis. I didn’t carefully read the description before diving in, and thought it would inform me about the increasing violence of weather. Rather, I learned about the privatization of weather, or at least the reporting of it, and the Department of Commerce.

Turns out, the Department of Commerce has little to do with commerce and is actually forbidden by law from engaging in business. Rather, it runs the U.S. Census, the Patent and Trademark Office, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Over half of its $9B budget though, is spent by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to figure out the weather. And figuring out the weather, is largely about collecting data. “Each and every day, NOAA collects twice as much data as is contained in the entire book collection of the Library of Congress." One senior policy adviser from the George W. Bush administration, said the Department of Commerce should really be called the Department of Science and Technology. When he mentioned this to Wilbur Ross, Trump's appointee to lead the Department, Ross said, “Yeah, I don’t think I want to be focusing on that.” Unfortunately for all of us, Ross also wasn’t interested in finding someone who would do it for him.

In October 2017, Barry Myers, a lawyer who founded and ran AccuWeather, was nominated to serve as the head of the NOAA. This is a guy who in the 1990s, argued the NWS should be forbidden (except in cases where human life and property was at stake) from delivering any weather-related knowledge to Americans who might be a consumer of AccuWeather products. "The National Weather Service” Myers said, “does not need to have the final say on warnings...the government should get out of the forecasting business."

Then in 2005, Senator Rick Santorum (a recipient of Myers family contributions) introduced a bill to basically eliminate the National Weather Service's ability to communicate with the public. Lewis asks his readers to "consider the audacity of that manuever. A private company whose weather predictions were totally dependent on the billions of dollars spent by the U.S. taxpayer to gather the data necessary for those predictions, and on decades of intellectual weather work sponsored by the U.S. taxpayer, and on the very forecasts that the National Weather Service generated, was, in effect, trying to force the U.S. taxpayer to pay all over again for the National Weather Service might be able to tell him or her for free."

It was at this point in my listening that I began to think how this privatization story was paralleling that of education’s. In both cases, those in the public sector are in it for the mission, not the money. In both cases, the private sector only "wins" if the public sector "loses". In both cases, it is in the interest of the private sector to facilitate the failure of the public sector or make it look like it is failing.

Just as private and charter schools profit when district schools are perceived to be of lower quality, Barry Myers has worked hard to make government provided weather services look inferior to that which the private sector can provide. As Lewis points out, "The more spectacular and expensive the disasters, the more people will pay for warning of them. The more people stand to lose, the more money they will be inclined to pay. The more they pay, the more the weather industry can afford to donate to elected officials, and the more influence it will gain over the political process."

Myers clearly understood the private weather sector’s financial interest in catastrophe and had no qualms about maximizing on it. One of those opportunities presented itself in Moore, Oklahoma when the NWS failed to spot a tornado that had spun up quickly and rapidly vanished. AccuWeather managed to catch it and immediately sent out a press release bragging that they'd sent a tornado alert to their paying corporate customers 12 minutes before the tornado hit. But, they never broadcast the warning...only those who had paid for it got it. This focus on profit above all else is why when the Trump Administration asked a former Bush Commerce department official to provide a list of those who should lead NOAA, Barry Myers' name was not on it. "I don't want someone who has a bottom line, or a concern with shareholders”, said the official, “in charge of saving lives and protecting property."

That sentiment is how I feel about the provision of "public" education by private and charter schools. I don't want someone who has a bottom line, or a concern with corporate shareholders, in charge of educating America's children without full transparency and complete accountability to taxpayers and the public. Rather, when taxpayer dollars are funding a service previously provided by the public sector, the potential must be weighed, for damage to the common good caused by the motive to profit.

Unfortunately, that's not what's happening today. As described by Jim Sleeper in a recent Salon.com article titled "Republic derangement: A party I used to respect has gone off the cliff", "the disease of turbo-marketing [is] reducing American education, entertainment, social media, politics and the dignity of work itself to levels determined by a mania to maximize profits and shareholder dividends, no matter the social costs.

No, I'm not saying there aren't problems with the public sector. But, the idea that the public has more control over a private corporation than it does over a public entity is ludicrous. The idea that parents have more say over a charter school's Education Management Organization (EMO) or a private school’s owner, than they do over a school district governing board is ludicrous. Ever try to attend an EMO's board meeting, let alone be allowed to make a “call to the public” at one? How about gaining visibility to the financial documents of a private school? Not happening.

The key to public sector performance is public engagement. For-profit corporations are generally motivated by profit. That is as it should be. Public entities are generally motivated by doing good for the public, again, as it should be. Neither is inherently bad or good, they each have their place and purpose. In some cases, there can even be a good mix of the two, such as with the U.S. Postal Service. But, the focus on privatization is currently being overplayed, to the detriment of our public institutions and the common good of our Nation and our world.

Truth is, government can provide a valuable check on corporate greed. Likewise, fair competition from the private sector can provide a check on the potential for government complacency or really, that of any monopoly, private or public.

Balance is the key. As Simon Sinek said, "The trick to balance is to not make sacrificing important things become the norm." One of the most “important things” in my mind, is to care for those who do not have the capacity to care for themselves. To ensure ALL OUR children have the opportunity to lead healthy, productive lives, no matter the circumstances of their birth, or the zip code in which they live. In the words of John Dewey, “What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.”



Republicans in Iowa and Mississippi receive Scriber's first What-is-wrong-with-you award

A friend if mine, when confronted with some kind of “Duh!”, frequently asks “What is wrong with you?” During this election season I found myself asking that so many times that I decided to create a What-is-wrong-with-you award. Today I present a couple of nominees to you with my designation of a front-runner.

Iowa Rep. Steve King is the inaugural winner of the award. The Huffington Post tells us why he so deserves it in How Rep. Steve King Almost Lost The white supremacist congressman usually wins re-election in Iowa by over 20 percentage points. This time he won by 3. What changed?

One thing was that he had an effective challenger in J. D. Scholten. Read on.

King is arguably the most bigoted member of Congress. For years, he’s parroted and promoted the propaganda of white nationalists and neo-Nazis, and openly associated with fascist and far-right figures at home and overseas. “Diversity is not our strength,” he once wrote in a tweet.

King has never denied being a white nationalist. On Oct. 21 he even appeared to defend the term itself, telling a local TV host that, although “white nationalist” is “a derogatory term today, I wouldn’t have thought so maybe a year, or two or three ago.”

Yet on election night, over 159,000 people in Iowa voted for King anyway. And although there are multiple reasons for why King keeps winning here — including racism, name recognition, party loyalty and issues like abortion rights — it’s maybe more instructive to consider why King came so close to losing this time.

There are 70,000 more registered Republicans than registered Democrats in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. President Donald Trump beat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton here by 27 points. That Scholten came within 3 points, or about 10,000 votes, of King is remarkable and shows he garnered support from Republicans.

King had managed to espouse all this nonsense [antisemitic conspiracy theories] with little political consequence until late October, when the massacre of 11 worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue by a white nationalist brought King’s own white nationalism under heightened scrutiny. Two days after the shooting, the polling firm Change Research published a poll showing King leading Scholten by only 1 percentage point.

… it’s hard to say how many voters abandoned King because of his bigotry. When King spoke at Gov. Reynolds’ rally Monday night, he wasn’t interrupted by a heckler calling him a racist. He was interrupted by a 44-year-old farmer, Dolf Ivener, upset over the price of soybeans.

“$7.50 for soybeans, I’m going to go broke because of you, Steve King!” Ivener yelled, before being escorted out of the rally. “I’m going to go broke because of you.”

Trump’s trade war with China, which King supports, has taken a real toll on farmers here. China bought 94 percent fewer soybeans this year from America than in 2017.

So King is complicit with Trump in screwing over his own base, the Iowa farmers.

Although Scholten was forceful in denouncing King’s bigotry on the campaign trail, he spent more time depicting King as an absent and ineffective representative.

It was a message that resonated with The Des Moines Register’s editorial board, which called its endorsement of Scholten “a no-brainer for any Iowan who has cringed at eight-term incumbent King’s increasing obsession with being a cultural provocateur.”

“In his almost 16 years in Congress, King has passed exactly one bill as primary sponsor, redesignating a post office,” the newspaper’s board wrote. “He won’t debate his opponent and rarely holds public town halls. Instead, he spends his time meeting with fascist leaders in Europe and retweeting neo-Nazis.”

For all these reasons, chiefly the election of a Nazi sympathizer who is clearly doing damage to his own state, I have to ask the 159,000 Iowans who voted for this goon:

What is wrong with you?

I was going to stop there but then I came across another contender for the award. So:

Here is a runner-up for Scriber’s What-is-wrong-with-you award: Laughing about Lynching is the feature story from Judd Legum at popular.info.

The next election is in 14 days.

On November 27, there will be a run-off for the special election in Mississippi for U.S. Senate. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) was appointed to the position in April 2018, when former Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) retired. The election will pit Hyde-Smith against Mike Espy, the former Secretary of Agriculture under President Bill Clinton. The winner will fill the remainder of Cochran’s term, which runs through 2020.

It was expected to be a cakewalk for Hyde-Smith – and still might be. But the race was thrust into the national spotlight when a video emerged on Sunday of Hyde-Smith discussing her willingness to attend a lynching.

“If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” Hyde-Smith said on November 2.

The small crowd responded with laughs and applause.

Hyde-Smith issued a statement on Monday claiming the reference to a “public hanging” was a compliment directed at cattle rancher Colin Hutchinson and had no negative connotations.

In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement. In referencing the one who invited me, I used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.

Notably, she did not apologize.

Espy responds

Espy, who is seeking to become to the first black U.S. Senator from Mississippi since Reconstruction, released a scathing response to Hyde-Smith’s quip about lynching:

Cindy Hyde-Smith’s comments are reprehensible. They have no place in our political discourse, in Mississippi, or our country. We need leaders, not dividers, and her words show that she lacks the understanding and judgment to represent the people of our state.

The history of lynchings in Mississippi

Lynchings “often targeted black men accused of fraternizing with white women.” There were 581 recorded lynchings in Mississippi between 1882 and 1968, the most in any state.

Jason Morgan Ward, who wrote the book on lynchings in Mississippi, noted that the last “public hanging” in Hyde-Smith’s hometown of Brookhaven occurred in 1928.

A mob dragged brothers Stanley and James Bearden, two black men, from the county jail. The mob hung James from a tree and riddled his body with bullets. After making Stanley watch this, they dragged him behind a truck all the way back into town. The men had been jailed after an altercation with a white man…whom they owed six dollars.

“Cracking jokes about [a public hanging] doesn’t mean you’re blissfully ignorant of a distant past, it just means you can’t own up to a history that will not hide,” Ward said.

It is instructive that no Republican elected official has taken exception to Hyde-Smith’s remark. Equally instructive is the active support granted to Hyde-Smith by the Republican governor of Mississippi.

To Hyde-Smith, her laughing audience, and Governor Phil Bryant, I’ve got to ask:

What is wrong with you?

2018 election update Nov. 13 - Sinema wins, Hobbs now ahead

My reporting started with 0630, Saturday, Nov 10. Here are new results as of 6:30 AM, Tuesday Nov 13.

Numbers flagged with “+” favor Democrats. Numbers flagged with “-” favor Republicans.

I’m carrying forward previous results so you can track trends. For example, yesterday Sinema was beating McSally by 32,169 votes. This morning the lead increased to 38,197 votes.

Observations
The trends seen yesterday continue to favor Dems. Of note: Katie Hobbs was closing on Gaynor in the SoS race and yesterday was only 424 votes behind. As of last night (this morning), Hobbs pulled ahead with a 5,667 vote lead! The SoS numbers are still too close to call. Ballots will continue to be counted through tomorrow, Nov 14, 5:00 PM. If current trends hold, Hobbs will be the second winner of a state-wide race, Hoffman being the other. That, Scriber thinks, is amazing. David Fitzsimmons’ cartoon in the print edition of the Star has AZ trending purple.

The good news
US Senate, Sinema vs. McSally: +20,102 +29,832 +32,169 + 38,197
US House, Kirkpatrick vs. Marquez-Peterson, +19,584 +22,563 +22,563 +24,768
AZ SoS, Hobbs vs. Gaynor, –10,696 –2,008 –424 +5,667
AZ Corp Com, Sandra Kennedy vs. Glassman, +1,602 +8,517 +9,747 +14,782
AZ Corp Com, Sandra Kennedy vs. vs. Olson n/a +4,642 +5,575 +10,473
AZ Sup/Public Instruction, Hoffman +31,809 +43,563 + 46,721 +54,057
AZ LD2 Senate, Dalessandro +9,494 +10,349 +10,349 +10,913
AZ LD2 House, Gabaldon beats Ackerley +6,930 +7,532 +7,532 +7,879
AZ LD2 Hernandez beats Sizer +7,114 +7,813 +7,813 +8,255

Note: Gabaldon and Hernandez have about the same number of votes. The pairing with Republican opponents was arbitrary; the difference in what I report above results from Ackerley getting more votes than Sizer.

Some of the not-so-good news
CD8, voucher queen Lesko leads Tipirneni, –29,455 –30,219 –37,518 –30,887
LD28 Senate, Kate Brophy McGee leads but not by much –616 –617 –643 –549
LD11, Holly Lyon is still way behind, trailing each of the R candidates by about 10K.

Sinema declared winner

The U. S. Senate race was called last night. For example, the NY TImes reported that Kyrsten Sinema Declared Winner in Arizona Senate Race.

Ms. Sinema, 42, won the race by about 1.7 percentage points amid increasing partisan tension. (Her lead could grow even larger as remaining votes are counted.) Some prominent Republicans, including Mr. Trump, claimed without offering proof that voting officials were engaged in fraudulent strategies to bolster Ms. Sinema, as the authorities struggled to count ballots following a surge in turnout.

Michele Reagan, a Republican and the Arizona Secretary of State, dismissed those claims. She said it took time to count the hundreds of thousands of early ballots that were dropped off on Election Day at polling stations, after which county officials had to verify the signature on each ballot.

“These processes take a little bit of time,” Ms. Reagan said in a statement, emphasizing that the methods used by the authorities are “to ensure that voters can trust the outcome of their elections.”