Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Perfect Haboob

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

There are a lot of unique things about living in Arizona and our storms rank near the top. I know, I know, people who don’t live here are thinking what storms, thought it is always sunny and hot? Well, there is that, but we also have our crazy monsoon rains and wild walls of dust called “haboobs”, an Arabic word meaning “blown”.

According to Arizona’s ABC15.com, “Haboobs are giant walls of dust created from high winds rushing out of a collapsing thunderstorm. Cold air in front of the storm rushes down at an incredible rate, picking up massive amounts of dust and sand and blowing them into the air.” A 2011 haboob in Phoenix, was almost a mile tall and stretched across the entire valley, over 50 miles long. These storms can stretch as far as 100 miles wide and are dangerous not only to drive in, but to just be outside in, as rocks and debris thrown around by winds of up to 50 mph can be dangerous, and bad air quality causes many people difficult breathing.

What’s going on with public education right now in Arizona feels a lot like that. First of all, our Governor and Legislature have turned a cold shoulder to the crisis facing our teachers and the districts they serve. The assault on our public schools has been fast-paced and fueled by out-of-state monied interests like the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity and Betsy DeVos’ American Federation for Children, despite overwhelming support for our public schools from Arizonans. And, all of this serves to obscure the real truth, which is that the focus on tax cuts and the push to privatize, are draining our public schools of available resources, making it very difficult for them to “catch their breath” and make the strides our state needs.

CD8 results - GOPlins claim 5.2% victory, Dems see it as a 15% defeat for Trump

Debbie Does Donald. Or perhaps it is Donald Does Debbie.

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
Arizona, please get out today and vote @DebbieLesko for Congress in #AZ08. Strong on Border, Immigration and Crime. Great on the Military. Time is ticking down - get out and VOTE today. We need Debbie in Congress!
11:02 AM - Apr 24, 2018

That did not save his 2016 margin. In fact, it seems that Trump support may have helped the Democratic challenger.

Here are the Arizona Special Election Results: Eighth House District from the NY Times.

CANDIDATE PARTY VOTES PCT.
Debbie Lesko Republican 91,390 52.6%
Hiral Tipirneni Democrat 82,318 47.4%
173,708 votes, 100% reporting (143 of 143 precincts)

Observe the point spread: 5.2%.

Tuesday’s special election in Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District, in the conservative suburbs outside Phoenix, revealed the depth of Republicans’ political challenges in 2018. Ms. Lesko was favored to win over Hiral Tipirneni, a Democrat and emergency room doctor, in a district that supported Donald J. Trump in 2016 by more than 20 points.

Even so, national Republicans spent more than $1 million to help Ms. Lesko. With an outcome this close in a district that should have Republicans winning big, it is another sign of Democratic enthusiasm, organizational muscle and determination to send a message about President Trump and his party.

In CD8 the ratio of Republican voter registration to Democratic voter registration is about 1.70. In the election results, the ratio of votes cast shrunk to 1.11.

More: the Times report includes a stunning graphic, Shift from 2016 Presidential Election. Each precinct, without exception, shifted blue.

No matter what, Debbie Does DC. And once there, it will be Debbie Does DeVos. The latter prediction is certain given Lesko’s role as Queen of the Voucher Vultures.

We have another shot at this. Remember in November.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Today's CD8 election is a bit of a cliff hanger

Ronald Hansen tells us Everything you need to know about Tuesday’s Arizona special election for Congress in the The Republic.

Today, April 24th, voters in CD8 head to the polls to see who will fill the US House seat vacated by Trent Franks.

On Tuesday, voting ends in the special election to replace Franks, the veteran House Republican who resigned in December amid a sexual-misconduct scandal. Republican Debbie Lesko is the favorite to replace him because of her party’s 17-percentage-point registration advantage in the district.

But at a time when independents, and even some Republicans, nationally are increasingly wary of the GOP, Democrat Hiral Tipirneni has mounted a serious challenge to Lesko.

How close is the race? Recent polls show anything from Lesko winning by 10 percentage points to Tipirneni by 1.

The election offers Democrats a long-shot possibility of narrowing GOP control of the House.

But a Lesko win by small numbers, say, less than 10 percentage points, is sure to be an ominous sign about Republican prospects in the fall elections. Right now, Democrats need to win 23 seats to retake the chamber.

If Tipirneni attracted 20 percent of Republicans and won independents by just 10 percentage points, she could lose 10 percent of her party’s voters and still be within 5 percentage points of Lesko.

How the party loyalists and independents come down will determine whether the race ends as an underwhelming Republican performance or a Democratic shocker that would reshape Congress even before November’s elections.

So. Stay glued to the tube tonight.

James Comey on Trump's emptiness and hunger for affirmation

Do a google search for “narcissist trump” and you’ll find lots of opinion about Donald Trump’s personality. Some would (and have) called it a personality disorder. But recently I came across a lay analysis that I think is most apt of all in an interview by New Yorker editor David Remnick with former FBI director James Comey, JAMES COMEY ON HIS INFAMOUS DINNER WITH TRUMP. David Remnick speaks with James Comey about the “emptiness” of Donald Trump and whether the President is fit for office.

Following is an excerpt from the New Yorker transcript. The time markers are from the video and Comey’s answers are highlighted in italics.

01:56 Now, you said earlier today in an interview
01:58 that you don’t hate the President.
02:00 You don’t even dislike him.
02:03 I’ll let that pitch go by.
02:04 (laughing)
02:05 You know it’s funny, my wife asked me the same question
02:07 after she saw the interview.
02:08 And the answer is I dislike many of things he does.
02:15 Him as a person I actually, this is gonna sound odd,
02:17 I actually kind of feel sorry for.
02:19 How so?
02:20 I think, I’ve said this before, it’s a hard thing to say,
02:24 but I think he has an emptiness inside of him
02:27 and a hunger for affirmation I’ve never seen in an adult.
02:30 (laughing)
02:31 And I’m not saying that to be funny.
02:33 I think that he lacks external reference points,
02:37 and instead of calling, making hard decisions
02:40 by calling upon a religious tradition or logic
02:42 or tradition or history, it’s all what will fill this hole.
02:47 You think something’s missing?
02:48 Something is missing in his life that has created
02:51 this orientation that I’ve never,
02:52 I meant when I said I’ve not seen in an adult before.

Monday, April 23, 2018

This Week's Illustrated News

Mission Accomplished
Mission (Nearly) Accomplished

Here are some of the themes from AZ Blue Meanie’s toons for this Mournday Mourning. Oops. I meant Illustrated News.

  • Education: Duplicitous Doug’s unfunded unicorn
  • Ryan leaves Washington in shambles
  • McConnell the Monkey sees no evil, hears no evil, speaks lots of evil
  • Tricky Donald follows Tricky Dick roadmap to impeachment
  • Guiliani: Last lawyer standing
  • Trump, Cohen, Hannity: Who is leading the parade?
  • MafiAmerica enabled by Trump’s Russian mob connections
  • The Trumpification of America

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Election watch - in new poll Sinema wins against each Republican candidate

Larry Bodine (Blog for Arizona) reports the latest poll on the Arizona Senate race to replace Sen. Jeff Flake: New Poll: Sinema Beats McSally, Ward or Arpaio in US Senate Race.

Regardless who the Republicans choose as their candidate for the Arizona US Senate seat, a new poll shows Democratic Congress member Kyrsten Sinema winning against them.

The survey by OH Predictive Insights and ABC15 says that the key reason is independent voters, who have a very negative view of GOP leader President Trump, and the negative view that voters in general have of Republicans Kelli Ward, Joe Arpaio, and Martha McSally.

And this is despite the 12% advantage that the GOP has (1,223,219 registered Republicans) over Democrats (1,090,310 registered Democrats) in Arizona. The survey sample reflected the Republican +12-point advantage over Democrats.

The poll finds that if the primary were held today, Kelly Ward would win the Republican nomination with 36% of the votes, compared with 27% of the votes for McSally and 22% of the votes for Arpaio.

But no matter. Sinema wins against any of the three GOP/Trumpist candidates.

  • Arpaio, 59% to 33%
  • McSally, 48% vs. 42%
  • Ward, 50% to 40%

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Can you hear us now?

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

Many questions remain unanswered about how Governor Ducey intends to fund his $648 million school funding plan which would provide a 20% bump to teachers by the 2020 school year and give schools $100 million for discretionary “additional assistance” next year. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) however, projects the state will face a $265 million cash shortfall in FY20 and $302 million by FY21. Not surprisingly I suppose, the Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning & Budgeting (OSPB), paints a rosier picture based upon “changing economic fundamentals.” They “note higher than expected job growth, and manufacturing growth that has accelerated to levels last seen before the Great Recession.”

Legislative Democrats however, aren’t buying the sustainability of the Governor’s plan and want it to be funded at least partly, with a tax increase. They also want to be brought to the table so consensus can be built. Gubernatorial candidate Steve Farley struck a moderate tone by saying “I’m willing to work with Doug Ducey. I’m running against him, but I want to get things done. We have an opportunity here that shouldn’t be missed."

For some time now, education groups have been working on developing that opportunity with a couple of potential ballot measures. AEA favored an increase to income tax for high earners, while other education groups favored raising the Prop. 301 sales tax to a full cent, though they worried about the regressive nature of sales tax so they discussed options to mitigate. Now it appears, those potential solutions may have been sidelined.

I personally agree with The Republic editorial columnist Abe Kwok who thinks a ballot initiative for an education-dedicated tax versus a strike would have been the best way forward. Kwok writes, “It has the infrastructure: Tens of thousands of teachers [and coalitions such as AZ PTA and SOS AZ] who can mobilize and excite voters. It has the backing” [education supporters and business leaders]. And, “It has the motivation: Democrats simply don’t trust the Legislature.”

Be all that as it may, it looks like Governor Ducey may have preempted any such voter initiative with his proposed plan. Now, the statewide teacher walk out, set to start next Thursday, is the focus and all parties are scrambling to prepare. Superintendents across the state are polling their teachers to determine whether or not schools can be kept open, letters are being sent home to parents advising them to prepare for school closures, and a variety of efforts are underway to care for students in schools and in communities, even if instruction can’t occur. Phoenix’s 12News.com reports that Mesa Public Schools, with over 60,000 students, has announced it will close it’s schools for the duration of the walkout. And according to the AZ Daily Star, several charter schools in the Tucson area joined districts schools in voting for a walkout, and closures of those schools would be determined on a school-by-school basis.

Governor Ducey is also focused on teachers and schools, vetoing 10 bills yesterday, without regard to merit. According to The Republic, his veto message was, "Please send me a budget that gives teachers a 20 percent pay raise by 2020 and restores additional (school district) assistance. Ducey’s move came after his chief of staff, Kirk Adams, reported no progress following a 15 minute meeting with Republican House members.

For their part, GOP lawmakers share concerns about funding sustainability, citing doubt in whether revenue will plus-up enough from the “booming economy.” In addition, some apparently don’t want the money to go directly to teachers, but instead to school boards. State Senator Rick Gray, said “We don’t want to try and take the governing board’s job away from them, while Senator Sonny Borrelli, said he was ”uneasy micromanaging political subdivisions.“ State Representative Anthony Kern said that ”a majority of the Republican caucus do not want to be in the business of dictating teacher pay."

Call me cynical, but I believe this sentiment has more to do with falling in line with a recently released Goldwater Institute memo than it does preserving local control. (A memo, which in my opinion, was designed to deflect blame for the school funding crises away from our Legislature and unfairly place it squarely on the backs of school boards.)

But, our GOP-led Legislature has proven time and again that they don’t value local control for our communities. They have consistently attacked local control for our communities and school boards, outlawing local decisions such as Bisbee’s plastic bag ban, Tucson’s melting of confiscated guns, Tempe’s dark money ban, and countless attempts (some successful) to curb school boards’ local control.

Even if the Legislature gets Ducey what he wants though, Arizona Educators United (AEU) and the Arizona Education Association (AEA) say they agree with the JLBC that his plan is not sustainable and that they’ll walkout unless they get: - A system of future raises; - No new tax cuts until state funding per student reaches the national average; - Overall funding restore to 2008 levels; and - Competitive pay for all education professionals, meaning support staff like counselors, reading specialists, lunchroom aides and custodians not currently included in Ducey’s plan.

Ducey’s spokesperson, Daniel Scarpinato, said the Governor is “willing to meet with anyone who’s interested in solutions”, but so far, that hasn’t included representatives from AEU and AEA. Some speculate that AEA’s endorsement of Ducey’s Democratic opponent in the Governor’s race, David Garcia, is part of the reason. And although Ducey is touting support from the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) and other groups such as the Arizona Association of School Business Officials (AASBO) and Arizona Superintendents Association (ASA), these groups see their role as negotiating with Ducey and the Legislature for a better result and to ensure his plan is implementable by school districts. For example, ASBA has secured the commitment of the governor’s office that there will be no changes in eligibility for Medicaid/AHCCCS to fund his plan, saying they would not support such a funding source. And in a statement to its members, ASBA wrote, “dueling analyses (of JLBC and OSPB) ASBA seem to demonstrate the state does not actually have enough revenue to support all the priorities the public deems a priority long-term. This may lead to a discussion about future revenue sources for K–12, which has been a core plank of ASBA’s political agenda. We would welcome such a discussion.”

It is clear that there are many different approaches to achieving a goal that all seem to now agree on - Arizona’s teachers must be more adequately compensated. After all, teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions. That in itself, is no small achievement. But, if we can’t deliver on that goal, it doesn’t matter how much we agree.

A major stumbling block to “peaceful” resolution is obviously the lack of trust the public education community has in Governor Ducey. As Laurie Roberts, of The Republic, writes, “Ducey didn’t create the crisis in Arizona’s public schools. But in the first three years and three months of his four-year term, he didn’t do anything to fix it. Didn’t recognize that while he and his pals were focused on ways to boost private schools, the public schools – the ones attended by 95% of Arizona’s children – were suffering.” Roberts goes on to say that, #20by2020 (Ducey’s plan) may make for a “trendy hashtag”, but teachers know the funding for Arizona’s public schools is still almost one billion below where it was in 2008 when inflation is considered. And that doesn’t even include the billions in capital funding the state has withheld. The result Roberts says, “is 25-year-old biology books and roofs that leak. The result is rodents running amok and schools unable to afford toilet paper.” The result is a set of poorly paid teachers and support staff who are tired of being ignored and are now shouting “Can you hear us now?”

This next week is going to be a cliff-hanger for our entire state. One thing is fairly certain. If Governor Ducey and our GOP-led Legislature hasn’t yet adequately “heard” our teachers and other education advocates, incoming shouts from all corners of our state, will no doubt drown out their ability to focus on much else. This issue isn’t going away and our lawmakers better start thinking outside the box they’ve cornered themselves in.