Monday, June 30, 2014

Update: SCOTUS ruling favors Hobby Lobby

This is one of the consequences of corporate personhood.  Now companies can claim religious beliefs.  Supposedly, the ruling is narrowed to "closely held" companies, but there are lots of those in the US.

Here is a concise summary from Vox.com.

Today's Supreme Court decision against Obamacare's birth control mandate comes in at at a hefty 49 pages (95 if you count the three dissenting opinions). If you're looking for a more pocket-sized version of the ruling, here's the decision summarized in three key points:
(1) A federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was written to protect individuals' religious freedoms — and on Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that, under RFRA, corporations count as people: their religious freedoms also get protection.
(2) The requirement to cover contraception violated RFRA because it mandated that businesses "engage in conduct that seriously violates their sincere religious belief that life begins at conception."

So SCOTUS has made an equation: business = family.  A family-owned business that employs people can now inflict the family's religious beliefs on the business' employees.

(3) If the federal government wanted to increase access to birth control — which they argued was the point of this requirement — the Court thinks it could do it in ways that didn't violate religious freedom, like taking on the task of distributing contraceptives itself.

Harry Reid promises legislative action on this point, but will the Tea-Party-dominated House go along?

The Supreme Court also put some restrictions on who its ruling applies to, saying ruling that only "closely held" corporations can be protected under RFRA, the religious freedom law. Since about 90 percent of companies are, however, closely-held, its unclear how much of a difference that distinction makes in the ruling's scope.

So Justice Ginsburg was right in her dissent - the ruling is startling in scope.

Breaking: SCOTUS rules in favor of Hobby Lobby, 5-4

"Closely held" corporations, those owned by individuals or families, are affected.  As more details become available, Scriber will post them here.

SCOTUS ruling on Hobby Lobby case expected today: Here are critical Q&QA

Here are some points from the Salon.com primer.

What is Hobby Lobby so mad about? 
Hobby Lobby, a for-profit and privately held corporation owned by a family of evangelical Christians, sued the Department of Health and Human Services in September 2012 because it believed that the contraception requirement of the Affordable Care Act was an unconstitutional violation of its sincerely held religious beliefs.  ... one of the questions before the high court right now is whether or not the company itself can have sincerely held religious beliefs, and — if the court is willing to recognize corporate religion — whether the contraception mandate places an “undue burden” on those beliefs.
And what beliefs are those, specifically? 
Hobby Lobby has based its claim in its religious opposition to abortion; according to lawyers for the company, the main issue here is four forms of birth control that it doesn’t want to cover because it believes they are abortion-inducing drugs. This is incorrect! ... “These medications are there to prevent or delay ovulation,” Dr. Petra Casey, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Mayo Clinic, told the New York Times in a piece on the science behind emergency contraception. “They don’t act after fertilization.”
And what’s the law behind this legal challenge? 
Hobby Lobby believes it should be exempted from complying with the new healthcare requirements because of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a law passed in 1993 to protect individuals from having their rights trampled by the government. ... The law was supposed to be a safeguard against big entities stomping all over the rights of individuals. Hobby Lobby is invoking it to do the exact opposite.
What happens if the justices find that corporations can have faith?  
Bad stuff. Weird stuff. If Hobby Lobby prevails in arguing that corporations can have sincerely held religious beliefs, the ruling would effectively make the kind of discrimination conservative lawmakers in Arizona tried to pass earlier this year with SB 1062 the law of the land. (Emphasis added.)
“Denying birth control to your workers because of your own religious objections to it superimposes your own personal beliefs about conscience and faith onto your employees. So does refusing to serve a gay person due to a religious objection to their sexual orientation,” Ian Millhiser of the Center for American Progress wrote earlier this year. “If the Supreme Court winds up holding that one person’s faith can impose itself on another, which is exactly what the plaintiffs in Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood want them to do, then all the nightmare scenarios” — rampant anti-LGBTQ and gender-based discrimination among them — “imagined in the debate over the Arizona bill could become very real.”
Anything else I should know about Hobby Lobby? 

Yeah, lots.  You should read the Salon.com article to find out the finer points of the laws involved in this case and the justices' lines of questioning during arguments.  The American public does not agree with Hobby Lobby, but that apparently does not carry much weight these days.  One last thing:

The company is also financially linked to a pretty expansive right-wing network.
And the organizations and individuals filing briefs in support of Hobby Lobby have really terrible views about women and sex and are all kind of fringe-y banana brains like the people at the American Freedom Law Center. Here’s an excerpt from that organization’s brief in support of the company:
Thus, it has come to pass that the widespread use of contraceptives has indeed harmed women physically, emotionally, morally, and spiritually — and has, in many respects, reduced her to the “mere instrument for the satisfaction of [man’s] own desires.” Consequently, the promotion of contraceptive services — the very goal of the challenged mandate — harms not only women, but it harms society in general by ‘open[ing] wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.’ Responsible men and women cannot deny this truth.

So hold your breath.  We teeter on the edge of making religious fundamentalism, and radical fundamentalism at that, the law of the land.

Cartoon of the week

From Blog for Arizona

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Nick Hanauer: "The Pitchforks Are Coming ... For Us Plutocrats"

Every now and then posts for the day on this blog coalesce around a common theme.  Today the theme of the first few posts is economic inequality.  This lead post cites Nick Hanauer predicting some pretty unpleasant things loosed on the land if the inequality trend continues.  This is a multi-millionaire telling his billionaire friends why such extreme inequality is bad for America in general ... and billionaires especially.

Here is a related post at Daily Kos making the same point in much rougher language.

GV News: Big money pushing millions into poverty

This is not news; economic inequality has been a theme on this blog before.  But it is worth reading about again and thinking about anew anyway.  Because America is, as they say, cruisin' for a bruisin'.

The huge (and growing huger) gap between rich and poor is a serious threat to our democracy.  Notice I did not mention middle class because in the analysis in the GV News today, the middle class is barely distinguishable from the poor.  The uber wealthy keep racking up major gains in wealth while middle class wages decline.  This cannot last, at least not if we want to keep our country safe and strong.

GV News Columnist Ed Lord provides more details of what's been happening.  He also provides a link to a Bill Moyers article that contains an excellent set of graphics showing how reality is much worse than what we think it is or would like it to be.

What can be done?  See the Scriber's post today on the Joseph Stiglitz article, "Inequality Is Not Inevitable."

Joseph Stiglitz: Inequality Is Not Inevitable

In the closing article to the NY Times series on The Great Divide, Stiglitz summarizes the causes of America's horrendous economic inequalities and their remedies.

An insidious trend has developed over this past third of a century. A country that experienced shared growth after World War II began to tear apart, so much so that when the Great Recession hit in late 2007, one could no longer ignore the fissures that had come to define the American economic landscape. How did this “shining city on a hill” become the advanced country with the greatest level of inequality?

Stiglitz argues that  "... it is not the inexorable laws of economics that have led to America’s great divide", rather it is "our policies and our politics."

The American political system is overrun by money. Economic inequality translates into political inequality, and political inequality yields increasing economic inequality. 

Our national policies have contributed to the great divide.

So corporate welfare increases as we curtail welfare for the poor. Congress maintains subsidies for rich farmers as we cut back on nutritional support for the needy. Drug companies have been given hundreds of billions of dollars as we limit Medicaid benefits. The banks that brought on the global financial crisis got billions while a pittance went to the homeowners and victims of the same banks’ predatory lending practices. This last decision was particularly foolish. There were alternatives to throwing money at the banks and hoping it would circulate through increased lending. We could have helped underwater homeowners and the victims of predatory behavior directly. This would not only have helped the economy, it would have put us on the path to robust recovery.

Both policies and politics are correctable - if we have the will to do it.

We have located the underlying source of the problem: political inequities and policies that have commodified and corrupted our democracy. It is only engaged citizens who can fight to restore a fairer America, and they can do so only if they understand the depths and dimensions of the challenge. It is not too late to restore our position in the world and recapture our sense of who we are as a nation. Widening and deepening inequality is not driven by immutable economic laws, but by laws we have written ourselves.

There really is a secret plan to downsize social security

As more and more people come of SS age, the plan is to cut work force, reduce services, and out-source.  

A little-known report commissioned by the SSA the request of Congress seems to hold the answer. The summary document outlining the plan, which is labeled “for internal use only,” is unavailable from the SSA but can be found here.
Does the document, entitled “Long Term Strategic Vision and Vision Elements,” really propose shuttering all field offices? The answer, buried beneath a barrage of obfuscatory consultantese, clearly seems to be “yes.” Worse, the report also suggests that many of the SSA’s critical functions could soon be outsourced to private-sector partners and contractors.

Why?  SS is self-supporting.  Costs of increased demand could be offset simply by lifting the income cap on SS deductions.  So why are we not mobilized to put this plan in the trash?

For details on what is being proposed, see this Nation of Change summary of the secret plan.

Here is the link to the "internal" document.

Duh! Cutting taxes means less revenue means busted budget

Kansas is having that "Duh" moment.  They legislated tax reductions for small businesses with unintended, and under-estimated, consequences.  The usual conservative lines fed the tax-cutting move - you know, lower taxes = more jobs.  Well, lower taxes meant less revenue and now their budget is in trouble.  There should be no surprises here.  With less revenue you either cut services (like education) or you raise taxes on other stuff.  That's the approach of some of the current crop of GOP candidates for AZ Gov.  If any of these tax-cutter types win in November, it must be Kansas, toto.

See the NY Times article for more.

Add to your reading this excellent overview of effects of state level tax cuts at Blog for Arizona.

Civil Rights Act at 50: LBJ and enforcing the act

LBJ's bias toward racial equality was rooted in his early experiences in the Texas hill country.  Given a chance, that bias emerged but only so long as it did not conflict with his political ambitions.  Robert Caro's book, Master of the Senate, tells that story including how LBJ passed civil rights legislation in '57 and '64.

But passing the bill was only half of what had to be done.  This article in the LA Times summarizes what Johnson's administration did to enforce the provisions of the Civil Rights Act.

 Both the book and the article are good reads.

One of the consequences of Johnson's victory was the Democrats' loss of the South.  The interactive map in this article traces the geographic distribution of congressional districts 1922-2012.

Short takes

Action opportunity: Robert Reich wants to "Break the Koch Machine"

In one map: Little acreage devoted to solar panels could power the planet

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Peeling a lot of potatoes a guy's way

Let the Scriber step out of character and offer some practical advice for when you have lots of relatives for dinner.  See this clip for instructions.

League of Women Voters and AZ Public Media sponsor candidate forums

These forums are open to the public.  See the Blog for Arizona post here for details.

Dark money ads target GOP candidate Jones

Dark money is not directed just at Dems. Laurie Roberts from the Arizona Republic reports that a South Dakota (South Dakota???) veterans group is pumping cash into ads attacking Christine Jones.  Here is the real story:

In what I'm sure is just a complete coincidence, the ads are being produced by DC London, whose owner Sean Noble is an ally of [GOP Gov Candidate Doug] Ducey.
Noble is a maestro of dark money, renowned for moving it around so the source is hidden — handy for keeping fingerprints from showing up in the mud.

The ads seem to be a bit of swift-boating aimed at Jones for some of her earlier remarks.

The Air Farce [sic] ad claims she lied about being in the Air Force. Jones says she was a Air Force ROTC cadet and never claimed to be in the Air Force. However, a listener would infer from her 2013 comments that she was in the Air Force.

Now I am no fan of Jones (or any of the rest of these GOP clowns), but this does illustrate the sinister nature of campaign spending without public accountability.  Roberts concludes:

"Honest is important to Arizona," the ad says and I agree.
So why not own up to who's really behind these attack ads?

I am betting that Dougie is out to [Coldstone] cream Jones.

AZ Gov candidates' reactions to Huppenthal scandal

As reported by The Yellow Sheet Report, June 26, 2014: CANDIDATES DUCK HUPPENTHAL SCANDAL

Except for [Democratic candidate Fred} DuVal, the gubernatorial candidates refrained from criticizing Huppenthal, and instead strongly suggested leaving it to the public to decide his fate. 

The GOP contenders' reactions ranged from cowardice to clueless.

Riggs felt sorry for Hupp.

Ducey will "back the GOP ticket - including Huppenthal."

Bennett said "it's up to Huppenthal and his family whether to stay in the race or not."

Smith "echoed the theme that voters should decide ..."

Those were the "kick the can down the road" chicken-out answers.

Then there was this:  "[Christine] Jones claimed to have no knowledge of the controversy. “I honestly, to be candid, don’t know what he said,” she said. "

Are you kidding me?  Does she have no access to the many media reports?  Buy a TV!

The only candidate with any principles stole the show.

Duval, however, seized the chance to ask for the superintendent’s resignation. He said the job of overseeing the education of Arizona’s kids comes with a “higher duty.” “I believe that the superintendent has violated that,” he said.

h/t to AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona and the Duval  campaign.

Elizabeth Warren: Economy rigged against average Americans

If you are conservative, chances are you agree ... unless you are rich.

Conservatives agree with liberals on a lot more - it's just too risky to compromise.

Short takes

Great Fitzsimmons column on Huppenthal

Jon Stewart on GOP "warfare queens"

Red Cross cites "trade secrets", protects "business model": Charities need transparency, not secrecy

"The Hidden Wealth of Nations" is offshore: Wealthy evade taxes while poor accumulate debt

Friday, June 27, 2014

Why SCOTUS has failed America

Somehow, during my education in civics, I came to believe one thing.  No matter if the President was doing weird and criminal things, no matter if Congress was capricious, SCOTUS stood as the defender of the supreme law of the land.  Now you can snicker, because of the Bush elections etc., but I continued to believe.  As of yesterday, no more.  

SCOTUS decided that women approaching abortion clinics have no right to freedom from harassment (or worse - violence) by striking down a state law designed to protect clinic clients from harassment on the street.  In contrast, SCOTUS protects itself with a no-protest zone in front of its own building.  They protect voters at polling places with similar prohibitions against political harassment.  But when it comes to abortion clinics?  SCOTUS decides one group of citizens are not entitled to equal protection.  Their decision does not cohere with what else they let stand, including their own buffer zone.  

My practice here has been to go after the goofy guys, politicians who say and do 

stupid, hypocritical, and inconsistent things.  With regret, I consign SCOTUS to the same political scrap heap. 

As usual, Rachel Maddow says it better.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Alternatives to Huppenthal

The race for Superintendent of Public Instruction is like the Clint Eastwood western, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly."  Hupp's comments were truly ugly - even he now "renounces" them.  That leaves the bad and the good.

The Bad.  Blog for Arizona has a comprehensive report on the other Republican candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction - Diane Douglas.  Other than the standard lines about how oppressed we are by the fed, she has one issue: stopping Common Core.  The business community should not be happy with the Republican primary choice:  John "Thucky" Huppenthal vs. Diane "Stop Common Core" Douglas.  Neither has any direct educational experience; neither has expertise in  educational policy or pedagogy.  Election of either one would result in a continuation of the downward spiral of public education in Arizona.  Get acquainted with Diane Douglas here.

The Good.  Fortunately, we have a good Democratic candidate for this post - David Garcia.  David is an Associate Professor of Education at ASU.  He has experience in stat government having "served as the state Associate Superintendent of Public Instruction for Standards and Accountability, Director of Research and Policy for the Arizona Department of Education, research analyst for the Arizona State Senate Education Committee and as a peer consultant for the U.S. Department of Education."  Here we have an opportunity to elect a clear alternative to political hacks and ideologues.  But only if we vote for the good guy!  Meet David here.

Here is another critique of Hupp and support for Garcia

The Democrats are running professional educator and Army veteran David Garcia, who grew up in Mesa and attended public schools, against Huppenthal. It’s been a long time since Arizona has an education professional running the schools.
Huppenthal’s plans to be re-elected and run Arizona schools for four more years when it’s all said and done could be the lighting rod that sparks a fire of revolt to take back Arizona from the goofballs who have driven the state into a hole of failure and mediocrity.

Disclaimer: Opinions on candidates or ballot issues offered on this blog are those of the Sky Island Scriber (unless attributed to other sources) and do not constitute an endorsement by any political organization or campaign.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Should our lawmakers get $11,000 raise?

Pro: it's the office, not the kook in it. (Montini)

It's true that government service is supposed to be about service, but the reality of the working world is that without a real, livable wage we will never get the kind of quality people we need. 

Con: The kooks are getting per diem; a raise won't buy us better kooks.  (Roberts)

Per diem scam aside, I could be talked into supporting a pay raise if I thought it would buy us a better Legislature.  But alas, I fear it'll just bring us the same old suspects in nicer suits. 

Democrats <i>still</i> not enthusiastic about voting

Here is another report from the Washington Post which has been tracking the percentages of different voting blocks claiming to be certain to vote.  Dems are in the tank and it is getting worse.  If this keeps up, there is a real risk of losing the Senate.  All that might spill over into state-wide races.  

SCOTUS rules against recess appointments and abortion clinic buffer zones

Obama's recess appointments ruled unconsititutional.  He made them during a 3-day recess - too short says court.  Vox.com provides a good summary of the issues and past practices.

Abortion clinic buffer zones ruled to violate 1st amendment.  Apparently protesters' right trump those of clinic visitors.

Vox.com asks: How can the Supreme Court have a protest buffer zone if abortion clinics can't?

Short takes

Do the poor have it easy?  Conservatives think so. (Good data and graphics here.)

Greg Sargent: GOP lawsuit against Obama can cut two ways reminding voters of GOP obstruction

Sarah Garrett Gassen: A Tale of Two Als

Montini: Huppenthal repudiates "spiteful blockhead" -- himself

Analysis: Tearful Huppenthal refuses to resign and pleads love in his heart

Hupp held a press conference that ended in tears - his.

He now claims this:

"I just shouldn't have done it," he said. "They (the posts) do not reflect the love I have in my heart and they don't reflect my actions."

 But, among other things, he wrote this:

"Obama is rewarding the lazy pigs with food stamps (44 million people), air-conditioning, free health care, flat-screen TV's (typical of "poor" families)."

I guess he was just expressing the love in his heart he feels for the lazy pigs.

There are two views about Hupp resigning (or not).

(1) Arizona Republic editors want Hupp to stick it out.  But for the wrong reasons.

And therein is the real problem with Huppenthal's anonymous blog posting. It opened him up to ridicule. Given the number of instances in which he has made himself look buffoonish, Huppenthal's credibility as a responsible public official is nearly shot.

Granted, bloggers say some weird things, but Hupp was not a blogger in the true sense of that word.  He did not write posts.  He wrote anonymous comments.  He revised biographical entries - both his own and others.  Granted also that what he wrote was not illegal.  But apparently he used state resources to do it.  And that really does seem illegal.  It might be helpful to know where the Republic editors stand on some things.

[Huppenthal] has made his political career on the wings of ideas. Some, like support for charter schools and higher graduation standards, have been generally good.

Might that "good" include robocalls for vouchers?

The bottom line for this camp is that Hupp is a good guy who got caught doing a stupid thing.  Never mind he used state time and resources to do it.

(2) The other camp wants a Scalp-enthal.  This camp includes a former superintendent, many bloggers, and, most recently, the Latino Caucus of the Pima County Democratic Party.  

The argument for Hupp's immediate political demise is made most succinctly by Bob Lord from Blog for Arizona. For example:

Huppenthal’s comments are out of step with the growing number of Americans who aren’t willing to blame the poor for their plight at a time when wealth and income are increasingly concentrated and the rich are getting absurdly rich.

Read more about Lord's conclusion here.

Hupp may be repentant, but he has a very different view of his "hurtful" comments. 

But he insisted nothing he wrote makes him unfit for his job — or convinces him that he should not try to get another four-year term.

So, basically you have a table of possibilities with two rows and two columns. Columns are what you think about Hupp:"Character defect" vs. "Got caught".  Rows are what you think should be done about it: "Resign now" vs. "Let voters decide".

Scriber thinks it's a character defect.  Scriber bets on getting Hupp whomped in November.  But then again, this is Arizona ...

Postscript:  The articles on this, specifically by Howard Fischer, do not do justice to the folks who did the original research and reporting.  The blog that outed Hupp was Blog for Arizona and the guy largely responsible was Bob Lord.  Neither was mentioned by Fischer.  

Boehner says he will sue President Obama over executive orders

Get set to pony up more tax dollars for this "subterfuge" (as Nancy Pelosi called it).

Boehner declined to spell out which specific actions would be addressed in the suit, which have included a 2012 decision not to deport children of illegal immigrants and this month’s order to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. Those executive orders came after the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate deadlocked on these issues over the past few years, taking no action.

Translation: Congress should be the only one to take action - or not, as Boehner sees fit.

“In my view the president has not faithfully executed the law,” Boehner told reporters at his weekly briefing.

Translation: The awful President got things done.

Read the rest in the Washington Post report.

Short takes

John Nichols: Thad Cochran's win has lesson for Dems - turnout is everything!

Has Dick Cheney lost it?  No memory his part in how we screwed up Iraq?

Jon Stewart skewers Cheney for hypocrisy

The sarcastic bear is loose: Obama mocks climate change deniers.

Business leaders tell 1% to worry about climate change

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Ghoulish Face of (American) Empire

Iraq is coming apart.  The ISIS/ISIL have grabbed large chunks of it with the resulting slaughter causing Sunnis to rethink the alliance.  The Kurds have their own  autonomous state.  The Shiites struggle to hold Baghdad.  The US is hoping Iran might help.  And the war mongers who got us into this mess want us to get back in and stir up the mess some more.  Advocates of US military intervention must explain to the American public why sending our soldiers into Iraq will help (not that anyone knows what that means anymore) when sending them caused the unraveling of that cobbled-together country in the first place.

Chris Hedges' column, The Ghoulish Face of Empire, appearing on-line in Nation of Change,  should be read by every American.  He describes how we got to this point  and what the best case scenario will be.  Hint: re-read the preceding paragraph.  But there is a deeper message about the limits of American military power and the implications for our foreign policy.

Save the Scenic Santa Ritas: Rosemont a bad project no matter who owns it

In response to the announced HudBay acquisition of Rosemont's parent company, SSSR issued a press release picked up the the AZ Daily Star.

"Today’s announcement that Augusta Resource Corporation has accepted Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals' hostile takeover bid does nothing to change the simple facts that the proposed massive Rosemont open pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson would inflict devastating impacts on southern Arizona’s environment and economy and still faces daunting regulatory challenges.
“The proposed Rosemont Mine will always be a bad project no matter who owns it,” said SSSR president Gayle Hartmann. “The massive open pit mine threatens southern Arizona’s drinking water, air quality, wildlife and mountains. We will continue to oppose this terrible proposal until it is defeated.”

SSSR lists several outstanding issues with the Forest Service's environmental impact statement including water issues, air quality concerns, and several endangered species.  Read more here.

Bipartisan report on climate change highlights economic damage

Some heavy hitters, including three Treasury secretaries (Paulson, Rubin, Schultz) are sounding the alarm but now in economic terms.

More than a million homes and businesses along the nation’s coasts could flood repeatedly before ultimately being destroyed. Entire states in the Southeast and the Corn Belt may lose much of their agriculture as farming shifts northward in a warming world. Heat and humidity will probably grow so intense that spending time outside will become physically dangerous, throwing industries like construction and tourism into turmoil.
That is the picture of what may happen to the United States economy in a world of unchecked global warming, according to a major new report being put forward Tuesday by a coalition of senior political and economic figures from the left, right and center, including three Treasury secretaries stretching back to the Nixon administration.

The real question is whether anyone will listen.  American business types tend to focus on the immediate future of the bottom line.  That's OK for tomorrow, maybe, but what good is that if the nation ends up paying vast sums for flood damage and your business tanks?  Read the full report from NY Times here.

John McCain: Complainer-in-chief

EJ Montini calls this one.  Here is the essence.

As Paul Waldman wrote recently The Washington Post's Plum Line blog, "McCain does provide something important to journalists: whatever the issue of the moment is, he can be counted on to offer angry, bitter criticism of the Obama administration, giving the 'balance' every story needs."
Most recently, McCain trashed Obama over the escalating violence in Iraq.
"Lindsey Graham and John McCain were right," McCain said. "Our failure to leave forces on Iraq is why Sen. Graham and I predicted this would happen."
The senator has made numerous predictions about Iraq over the years. He predicted we'd find weapons of mass destruction. He predicted that the Iraqi people would greet us as liberators. Early on, he said, "I think the victory will be rapid, within about three weeks."
He didn't take any blame when none of that happened.

But he does shift the blame to Obama for everything. Senator McCain should know by now: complaining is not commanding.

Two visual presentations on the crisis in Iraq

A brief history of the crisis in Iraq - a card file from Vox.com.  Good visuals, maps.

Like maps?  Another presentation from Vox.com shows how the conflict in Iraq has come about in 27 maps.  If you want the bottom line (my opinion), go straight to map #27 showing how the Iraqis are sorting themselves out into geographic regions reflecting ethnic/religious distributions.  The Kurds already have an autonomous state, and the Sunnis and Shia are sorting out the rest.

This might be "The End of Iraq" (Times magazine, June 30), but the clinker is ISIS/ISIL.  Can any of the players, in or out of Iraq, mid-east or the larger powers, tolerate a radical islamic state?

HudBay buys Rosemont parent - proposed mine still not a done deal

Augusta Resources was going broke (but its executives were getting paid).  HudBay is a much more serious company with deep pockets.  That's the bad news.  The good news is that the folks at Save the Scenic Santa Ritas are not giving up.  Neither am I.  Neither should you.  

The Regional Forester, Calvin Joyner, completed a review of objections to the proposed mine and found no legal reason to hold up approval of the mine; he passed the rest of the review back to Jim Upchurch, the head of the Coronado forest.  That's the bad news.  The good news is that Joyner's letter (to objectors like me) basically described dotting i's and crossing t's.  Substantial objections remain to be dealt with in the courts.

The Daily Star has a longer report.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Breaking: Augusta Resources flips Rosemont Copper to HudBay

HudBay Minerals had made previous offers rejected by Augusta.  They offered more.  Bloomberg.com reports.

HudBay Minerals Inc. (HBM) reached an agreement to buy the rest of Augusta Resource Corp. (AZC) for about C$436 million ($406 million) after sweetening a hostile offer for the developer of the Rosemont copper project in the U.S.

Augusta Board was pleased with the deal.  Of course.

“After a thorough process to consider all of our alternatives, we are pleased to have agreed on a mutually beneficial transaction representing a successful conclusion to our value maximizing process,” Augusta Chairman Richard Warke said in the statement.
Augusta directors, officers and shareholders that control about 30 percent of Augusta’s fully diluted shares have agreed to support the revised offer from HudBay, the companies said today.
The acquisition will allow Toronto-based HudBay to develop Augusta’s Rosemont project as its next mine after recently starting up two Canadian operations, with a project in Peru close to completion. The mine, southeast of Tuscon, Arizona, could account for as much as 10 percent of U.S. copper production, according to Augusta.

For those who would protect the Santa Ritas: same fight, different opponent.

h/t Mark Mandel for the heads up.

Aw, shucks! Al Melvin quits the AZ Gov race

Citing the difficulty of obtaining the $5 clean election contributions, Al Melvin filed the papers to withdraw from the AZ Gov race.  (I guess the 1% guards their money carefully.)  Nevertheless, Melvin expressed hope for conservative causes [my translations in brackets:

But this is not the end of our fight for secure borders,  [Boots on the ground?  Virtual fences?]
high Arizona education standards instead of Common Core, [We can design our own standards.  Or we can leave those to parents.]
tax relief, [For the oppressed 1%.]
Universal School Vouchers, ...[Private schools supported by public tax dollars.]

He goes on:

 ...I am at peace with the decision because in spite of our efforts we were not going to be able to win the race, and no one who believes in our shared conservative values wants to see conservatives split the vote and allow a liberal to claim our party’s nomination.

We know from lots of psychological research that once you categorically label a group of people, you are less perceptive of differences among those people.  Maybe that's why I don't see his point presumably about the remaining GOP candidates.  A liberal?  Claiming an AZ GOP nomination?  Maybe he is referring to Ducey?

Reported by Jim Nintzel in the Tucson Weekly.

Paulson addresses climate change: A Republican offers solutions, chides deniers

Next time you join your Republican neighbors for drinks or cards, and you hear comments about how climate change is not settled science, or is a liberal plot, trot out these talking points from a respected conservative - Bush's Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson.  In a NY Times op-ed he is pushing a carbon tax but also makes the case for taking climate change and human contribution to it as givens.  For example:

Already, observations are catching up with years of scientific models, and the trends are not in our favor.
Fewer than 10 years ago, the best analysis projected that melting Arctic sea ice would mean nearly ice-free summers by the end of the 21st century. Now the ice is melting so rapidly that virtually ice-free Arctic summers could be here in the next decade or two. The lack of reflective ice will mean that more of the sun’s heat will be absorbed by the oceans, accelerating warming of both the oceans and the atmosphere, and ultimately raising sea levels.
Even worse, in May, two separate studies discovered that one of the biggest thresholds has already been reached. The West Antarctic ice sheet has begun to melt, a process that scientists estimate may take centuries but that could eventually raise sea levels by as much as 14 feet. Now that this process has begun, there is nothing we can do to undo the underlying dynamics, which scientists say are “baked in.” And 10 years from now, will other thresholds be crossed that scientists are only now contemplating?

Read more after the break - and then read the full article.  It's good.


In one corner, the water-weight champion, California. In the other corner, the challenger, Arizona.

Michel Hiltzik in the LA Times anticipates the upcoming water war.  Here is the problem.

If the Western drought continues, Arizona would have to bear almost the entire brunt of water shortages before California gives up a drop of its appropriation from the river. Few observers of Western water affairs believe that's politically practical, but few have offered practical alternatives.

The original agreement and subsequent legislation were optimistic about the continuance of sufficient water in the Southwest.  But:

The [Central Arizona Project] bill's drafters probably never thought supplies would become so tight. But the bill from nearly a century of overuse is on the verge of coming due. During the last 50 years, according to figures from the Reclamation Bureau, the population served by the river has grown from 12 million to 30 million. Over that period, the average flow on the river has fallen from 15.5 million acre-feet to as low as 12 million. (An acre-foot serves two households a year.)

Hoping for a few wet years, building desalination plants, or constructing more dams are not likely to be long term solutions.

This is likely to be grim.

What will be necessary is a fundamental reconsideration of 100 years of water-appropriation practices and patterns.

Hobby Lobby decision from SCOTUS is coming

Salon.com "reached out to Emily Martin, vice president and general counsel for the National Women’s Law Center, to talk through possible outcomes."

What's the best possible outcome?

There are a lot of ways that the United States could win this case. Hobby Lobby would have to pass a lot of tests in order to succeed. It seems to me that the best case scenario is if the court really makes clear that corporations don’t have the right to pray, that corporations can’t exercise religious rights and that therefore this analysis of whether a particular requirement burdens the religious rights of a corporation is just nonsensical.

And the worst possible outcome?

If they say, “Nothing we can do about it, that’s Hobby Lobby’s religious right.” I think that would be a very disturbing principle to be created for really the first time in law. That’s never been what we’ve understood religious freedom to mean, and I think that would be a very troubling principle. And certainly if the Court says that any corporation can exercise religion, that there are no limits to a corporation’s right to exercise religion and opens the door to a variety of really troubling claims.

We should find out soon.

Dick Cheney didn't mean any disrespect to Obama in op-ed???

Right.  

Although he has accused the president of taking “America down a notch” and implying he is “a fool,” former vice president Dick Cheney “didn’t intend any disrespect” to President Obama, he said to Jon Karl on ABC’s “This Week.”

And I don't mean any disrespect to Cheney when I ask these questions.  What is he running for?  And why do the talk shows feed his program of self-promoting BS?  He was the architect of failed policies in Iraq crafted with the oil guys behind closed doors.  Should we listen to him now?

See the Salon.com article for more.  (Lots of negativity about Cheney out there now.)

What's wrong with this picture: (1) AZ legislators sweep HURF funds, (2) get re-elected anyway

Sierra Vista Herald gets the problem with (1).  But what about (2)?  

State lawmakers — including everyone from the governor on down to our local LD14 representatives — have supported using HURF for purposes other than provided under the formula.
Today’s reality is that Cochise County — which measures some 6,165.69 square miles, can only afford to maintain 90 miles of its 464 paved roads.

But wait - SVH tiptoes into the solution:

... voters considering what’s important in the Aug. 26 Republican primary election for the State Legislature need to recognize that political labels and philosophies make little difference when your local roads are deteriorating.

It's not just Aug. 26.  Think November.  To put it more succinctly to LD14 voters:  if you want a change, don't keep doing the same stuff at the ballot box.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cartoons: Breaking Iraq, blaming Obama for everything, and more

Start the week with a little humor.

h/t AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona

US President chides NRA for open-carry everwhere. &nbsp;But not the President you think?

Here's a good one from Jim Hightower.

I’m with the president on this one: “There’s no reason,” he said, “why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.”
Oh, that wasn’t Barack Obama. It was Ronald Reagan, in 1967 — back when he served as the governor of California.

Hero worship and the civil-military divide

In a Washington Post op-ed, a US Army Captain cautions against the indiscriminate use of "hero."

I have worn an Army uniform for the past eight years and deployed twice to Afghanistan. This doesn’t make me a hero.

(Disclosure: I too wore that uniform for 3 1/2 years in the 60s.  I am proud of that service but never have flaunted it let alone thought of myself as a hero.)

His point is important.  Fewer and fewer Americans serve in the military, and there are fewer and fewer Vets in Congress, disturbing trends, also noted by Rachel Maddow in her book "Drift."  In short, there is an increasing divide between the civilian electorate and the military.  That divide has serious policy consequences.

Over the past decade, a growing chasm between military and civil society has raised the pedestal upon which the United States places those who serve in its military. Too much hero-labeling reinforces a false dichotomy that’s commonly heard in our political discourse: You’re either for the troops or you’re against them. We badly need to find ways to bridge this civilian-military gap to cultivate a more nuanced appreciation of service and to produce better policy in Washington.
While we veterans surely appreciate a supportive public, too much hero-labeling has unintended consequences.

Read more about managing our military resources after the break.

Winding up a not very good week for Huppenthal

The string of Hupp's hateful comments documented by various blog sites continues.  These are from the Three Sonorans blog targeting the Mexican American Studies program and Latinos.  ("You have an ethnic majority, hispanics, oppressing an ethnic minority, small business owners ...")  Does he have anything good to say about anyone?  Oh, yes. "Senate President Russell Pearce was a very good man. Like the sheriff in High Noon ..."  

I think we've got the measure of this man.  Let's retire him in November!

Read other quotes in the Tucson Weekly article by David Safier.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Breaking: AZ Chamber of Commerce cancels award to Huppenthal

AZ Central reports:

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry has canceled plans to honor Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal at its annual awards lunch next week.
The lunch, scheduled for next Friday, is an annual event to honor community leaders. [Chamber President Glenn] Hamer said the chamber created a special award to recognize Huppenthal's support of the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards.
Hamer said his board will soon decide whether to ask Huppenthal to step down or drop out of the November 2014 election, although the group has no power to make him do so. 

Aw, come on.  Think of the ticket:  Horne and Huppenthal.

Candidate news: Superintendent of Public Instruction

Two Democratic candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction speak about current educational issues.  David Garcia and Sharon Thomas are both Dem candidates for Superintendent.  Watch the video.

AZ Central voter guide for Superintendent of Public Instruction. This is informative about those who did and did not respond.

Huppenthal is sorry, all right: Sorry he got caught

Sierra Vista Herald on Hupp's non-apology

KGUN9 airs video on Huppenthal scandal

Fact checking Huppenthal on FDR: FALSE!

Action alert: tell Congressman Barber to support 1872 mining law reform

Look to the East and imagine no Santa Rita mountains.  Take action - tell Ron Barber to support the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2014 to be introduced by Raul Grijalva.  Here is the handy form for doing that.  

Climate change in the news: While our planet burns, GOP fiddles with another shutdown

No matter what the politicians say: Summers ARE getting warmer.  And the Southwest is really getting warmer.  Here is an interactive map of the US you can use to explore the temperature change.

But the GOP wants to defund EPA: I guess giving the cold shoulder to global warming is their solution

GOP Senators keep denying global warming:  Jon Stewart has something to say about that.

For Wisconsinites: Scott Walker caught up in campaign finance scandal

John Nichols at the The Nation reports: Wisc. Gov and GOP darling Scott Walker is a candidate for a central part in a criminal scheme.

Friday, June 20, 2014

What's happening in Iraq: A must read

UofA journalism prof adds some important information in this Daily Star piece.  How did the Sunni "insurgents" made such large gains so quickly.  Who are those guys? Hint:  it's not just about ISIS/ISIL.

The two best things today: Clean Elections Commission votes to investigate AZ AG Horne, denies AZ SoS Bennett's request for TV time

On Thursday, June 19, the AZ Citizens Clean Elections Commission took two important actions.  Quotes from AZ Daily Star report follow.

The first decision was to investigate the charge against AZ AG Tom Horne that his executive staff worked on his re-election campaign.

The commission unanimously approved the inquiry at its meeting Thursday. The investigation will examine whether Horne violated the law by using his executive staff to work on his re-election campaign and could end in enforcement action.
Former Horne staffer Sarah Beattie filed a complaint with the commission and the secretary of state's office last month saying she was essentially hired to work on Horne's campaign. She also alleged that others in Horne's office also did substantial work on his campaign.
Horne denies the allegations.

The second decision takes AZ SoS Bennett off of voter education ads.  

The commission also denied Secretary of State Ken Bennett's request to appear in voter education ads while running for governor.

The connection between the two cases is the use of state resources controlled by a candidate for office to advance that candidate's campaign.

Huppenthal anonymous blogging story goes national: "Arizona school chief busted for posting appalljng comments online"

Here is the Daily Kos article with that headline.

Phoenix news and TV stations have gotten on this story big time.

Arizona Republic: "Anonymous postings from state schools superintendent are offensive in more ways than one."  Wow.  The Arizona Republic has a scathing editorial on Huppenthal's anonymous blogs.  Here is some of that editorial.

Anonymously, the state's top education official suggested that Charles Darwin labeled Germans the master race (long before Hilter came along) and would have approved of the Holocaust. He said Franklin D. Roosevelt was responsible for the Great Depression (which started with a stock-market crash early in the Hoover administration). He repeated the canard that abortion is genocide on African-Americans.
A student advancing any of these unsupportable views in an essay would get an F. So it's not surprising that Huppenthal would want to keep his agreement with them secret.
The anonymous Internet is revealing. It shows us what a person really believes, what he holds deep in his heart. What he dares not say publicly.

It's only June.  The election is five months away.  It is up to all of us to make sure the electorate remembers in November what all this reveals about the character of the man who aspires to head public education in Arizona.

AZ Central columnist Laurie Roberts weighs in on another angle to this story - apparent use of state resources for his anonymous posts.

Huppenthal isn't explaining why some of those posts were made from a Department of Education IP address.
Surely, Attorney General Tom Horne could advise him on the do's and don'ts for state employees working on the taxpayers dime? 

And a Republic reader chimes in questioning Hupp's suitability for public office - with some other reminders about Hupp in the news in years past.

Dick and Liz Cheney criticize which president for Bush-admin errors?

They really do live in a different universe.  Remember all the excuses? Weapons of mass destruction ? Never found.  Support for Al Quaeda? No Evidence.  US troops as liberators? Over 4,000 killed.  Iraq oil to pay for the occupation?  Not yet.  And these two goofs want to criticize Obama?

They are getting a lot of negative feedback.  Here are two columnists' critiques in the NY Times and Washington Post.

Short takes

Wisconsin prosecutors allege Scott Walker aides involved in campaign finance scheme- all in one chart

Robert Reich: Save Capitalism by increasing wages and taxing the rich - and smart businessmen agree.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch drops George Will after his column on sexual assault

Heads in the sand update: Senate GOP ignores even Republican EPA leaders on climate change

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Spinning the Huppenthal anonymous web comments

The media spin machine is cranking away running [non]apologies from Hupp.

Quoting rom the Arizona Republic story:

• "Obama is rewarding the lazy pigs with food stamps (44 million people), air-conditioning, free health care, flat-screen TV's (typical of "poor" families)." (Editor's note: Parentheses included in posting.)
Huppenthal said his posts are meant to correct "a lot of really bad ideas" on political blogs, not to insult. He said his reference to "lazy pigs" refers to a phrase in a nursery fable.
In "the Little Red Hen ... in which a fat lazy pig refuses to help the little red hen sow her seeds," he said. "I have never been insensitive to issues around poverty and have fought for public policy that provides opportunities for jobs for all our citizens who want to work and support for those who are vulnerable."

Sorry, but all that does not work.  The implication is that the "lazy pigs" do not want to work - a standard Ayn-Randian view of the poor as moochers and looters and unthinking brutes. No matter what the spin put on this by the Huppenthalians, his anonymous posts reveal lots about his rendition of the most ugly aspects of conservative thinking.

In the print edition this morning, the AZ Daily Star stripped the Republic report down to a much shorter piece.  Read the full report here.

The Scriber will get back to other topics tomorrow.

Huppenthal admits anonymous web activity

Arizona Central reports his admission (albeit spun and spun by his staff).

"I take my position as an Arizona leader very seriously, and I sincerely regret if my comments have offended anyone."

If? Seriously? Is he kidding?  Here is just a smattering of what he said.

"We now know that (Franklin D. Roosevelt) was almost completely responsible for the great depression," Falcon9 posted in 2013 on Blog for Arizona.

Hupp does not get cause and effect - the depression was already rolling by the time FDR was elected.  FDR might have done too little, but he was not the cause.

It was Darwin, not Hitler, who named the Germans the master race. It was Darwin who expressed approval of eliminating both Jews and Africans. Hitler worked to eliminate the Jews. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood was given the job of eliminating African-Americans. Hitler fed 6 million Jews into the ovens. Sanger has fed 16 million African-Americans into the abortion mills."

The association is Planned Parenthood = genocide?

"There is no aspect of (Child Protective Services) nationwide which protects children. No correlation between spending on CPS and child safety," Thucydides posted in January on Blog for Arizona.

Well, he is not from CPS so he cannot be expected to understand ...

"Our successful small businessmen/job creators are being taxed to death," Falcon9 posted in October 2011 on Blog for Arizona "At most, they should give up 40 cents on the dollar to expanding government burden. But, Obama demands 63 cents. Meanwhile, Obama is rewarding the lazy pigs with food stamps (44 million people), air- conditioning, free health care, flat-screen TV's (typical of "poor" families)." 

Lazy pigs?  This is so Ayn Rand - moochers, looters, and unthinking brutes - general disrespect for those less fortunate than yourself.

We all need to do what we can to see that Mr. Hupp does never again claim the label of "an Arizona leader."

The important question now is whether he did this stuff on state time using state resources, all paid for by the taxpayers.  Stay tuned.

More reports on the Huppenthal scandal

Note: Written before the acknowledgements from the Hupp camp.

Scriber will keep tracking the Huppscandal.  It's getting more and more press.  This new post makes the case for a violation of standards of conduct in the Arizona Administrative Code.

And the Arizona Republic just picked up on it.  Sing to the theme of Rocky:  Going viral, going viral.

Short takes

GOP candidates for AZ Secretary of State serve up voter suppression and dark money

How the GOP can appeal to Latinos - advice from Stephen Colbert

John Nichols reports poll results: Americans do NOT want to go to war again in Iraq

AZ cities face water shortage

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ruben Gallego: Why we should not go into Iraq again

This is a powerful testimonial from CD7 Democratic candidate Ruben Gallego.  He was a Marine and served in Iraq.  He knows.

Candidate endorsements: With friends like these ...

From the Arizona Republic

[Doug] Ducey, a GOP candidate for governor, won the endorsement of [Scott] Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, last month. Walker called Ducey a common-sense conservative who is capable of making the tough choices demanded of a governor.  

Tough choice #1: Ducey selected Cathi Herrod as advisor.  Will Jan Brewer also endorse Cathi's Clown? 

Michele Reagan, candidate for AZ Secretary of State, gets the endorsement of Kris Kobach, Kansas SoS.  You remember Reagan -- the voter suppression lady.

In 2013, she authored two bills that became lightning rods within the Latino community. One bill would have allowed elections officials to remove people from the permanent early-voting list if they had not used their mail-in ballot in recent elections. The other measure would have banned bulk collection of ballots.

And she won't stop trying.

What elephants and oceans have in common

They are large and they are endangered.  There is a recent report about 20,000 elephants killed by poachers - in just one year - to feed the appetite of the ivory trade.  Our oceans are being over-fished and apex predators end up in Chinese shark-fin soup - another billion dollar industry.  

Now President Obama is using executive authority to expand the Pacific Islands National Marine Monument.  From the Washington Post, here is why.

Income inequality watch

Dallas hospital uses executive bonus pool to fund minimum wage increase

Occasionally the news makes Scriber less pessimistic - even happy at times.  Here is such an article.

Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas will raise its own minimum wage to $10.25 an hour next month, paying for the increase with money originally devoted to executive bonuses.

However, the same report admits that the overall bonus pool is about 10 times larger than what this move cost the hospital.

The wage increase will cost the hospital about $350,000 a year. The expense will be covered with money from the upcoming quarter’s bonus pool for the hospital’s 60 vice presidents and top executives. That pool was between $750,000 and $1.2 million in the most recent quarter, and it’s between $3 million and $5 million for the full year.

In spite of good intentions by Parkland, these numbers tell us about one source of increasing income inequality in America.

Incomes are more unequal in some parts of the US.  

See this interactive map.

Inside the Koch Brothers' billionaire summit

This was a secret meeting of conservative politicians and the uber-rich.  The Nation's report describes the right-wing agenda.  Here is a sample.

Part One [of the Foundations for Progress theme] featured Michael Lomax, the president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, which recently received a $25 million donation from the Kochs to create a special "Koch Scholars" program emphasizing entrepreneurialism and free markets. Lomax has faced a storm of criticism for taking the money, given the history of attacks by Koch-funded organizations on voting rights, which do the most harm to underprivileged minorities who typically vote Democratic.        
Intriguing in its ambiguity was the "Energy: Changing the Narrative" session, presumably meant to change the narrative of climate change to one of energy independence. ... As the owners of a large carbon-based energy conglomerate with interests in oil, natural gas and coal, it is not hard to see why the Kochs are some of the most vocal climate deniers.
Security was tight from noon on Saturday throughout the remainder of the conference, with checkpoints at every entrance to the resort. At the front gate, security guards and multiple Koch employees brandishing iPads greeted incoming cars. Even more Koch employees, acting as escorts, met guests at the front door. Guests were asked to abide by a no-cell phone policy, and security was in place to enforce that policy at events.

If the ideas espoused at this summit are so good for the nation, why are they kept secret?

Read the full report here.

Short takes

Huppenthal's internet behavior update.

How the US is changing in 21 charts: conspicuously absent is the number of deaths due to gun violence.

Singapore's public private health care system costs less (than in the US) and delivers more (than in the US).  

Jon Stewart blasts John McCain over Iraq policy: Another way AZ gets featured on Comedy Central. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

CAP Board President highlights conservation needs, Rosemont implements conservation by withdrawing application for mine

Really?  Come on.  You did not believe it.  

Only the first part of this headline is true.  The CAP executive spoke of the effects of drought on CAP supplies.  That's the supply that Rosemont Copper wants us to stake our future on.

The second part of this headline?  Well, Rosemont's plan is to pump water from our aquifer to run the proposed mine.  This is conservation?

Breaking: Brahm Resnick of Ch 12 News interviews blogger who busts Huppenthal for disguising internet comments

View/listen to the interview here.

Where are the giraffes?

Occasionally, I wax personal here.  In September we are going to Zambia (google it!).  We will be out walking with the critters - lions and other big cats, elephants, hippos, giraffes, ... Here is a map of Africa showing ranges of various sub-species of giraffe.  The little purple splotch is in Zambia where we will be, hopefully, out walking with the giraffes.  

I bother you with this map for another reason.  In the absence of a map of the giraffe's ranges 100, 200, 300 years ago, I find it disturbing that the areas of the map WITHOUT giraffes is so large.  Where did they go?  (If you have or can link to such a map showing changes in giraffe ranges, let me know and I will post it.)

Gun violence: Letter from parent to CNN and Montini's take on the real sin

We are getting have gotten used to the school shootings like Sandy Hook - it is the new "norm." But there are dozens of firearms deaths each and every day in America that go unreported.  As part of our nation's acceptance of school shootings, we choose to completely ignore these other consequences of our choice of a gun-totin' society.  Here is one mother's indictment of the media non-coverage of the daily carnage.

Excellent video from EJ Montini: The real sin is that murder no longer shocks us.

Iraq: Vietnam Redux?

Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, McCain,Graham: These are names associated with what got us into Iraq.  But do you think that these guys had any clue about what they were doing? How did we get into this mess?  Who put us there?  Why are those same people calling for regime change?  Here is a complete chronology from the Daily Kos that will answer those questions.

And here is a stinging critique from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

President Obama does better in action than in polls

Paul Krugman lists some BFDs that Obama has succeeded with, including health care and climate change.  No support from the GOP?  Do we care any more? 

Monday, June 16, 2014

The right-wing docs won't like these numbers

Lots of data here (but in easy-to-consume graphics), and none of it very positive about our health care system.

Another report plots life expectancy against health care spending.  America does not fare well on this either:

The chart, from a 2013 report, maps what countries spend per-person on health care against how long people in those countries live. It captures two long-standing truths about the American system: the United States consistently ranks way above peer nations in health care spending, but also ranks way behind in health care outcomes.

A glimmer of hope:

And, its also possible the United States' ranking could change in future surveys. Numerous surveys show that the Affordable Care Act is driving down the uninsured rate, which could reduce the cost-barriers and inequality that shows up here. In upcoming surveys, America might not come in very last.

How to start the week -- with cartoons!

Weekly cartoons from Blog for Arizona.  

Is Iraq a predictor of politics (and everything else) in America?

Iraq is sorted into (at least) three communities identified by politics, ethnicity, religion, and geography.  With the disappearance of the political center in America, might the same be in store for us?  Here, unfortunately, is evidence from a Pew poll reported in the Washington Post.

Consider this stunning statistic: In 1994, 23 percent of Republicans in the Pew values continuum were more liberal than the average Democrat, while 17 percent of Democrats were more conservative than the average GOP-er. Today, just 4 percent of Republicans are to the left of the median Democrat, and just 5 percent of Democrats are to the right of the average Republican.
All of this partisan sorting — coupled with the sort of self-sorting into neighborhoods and communities it has created or aided — has led partisans to increasingly see the other side as an ill-tempered alien: strange, impossible to understand and with malice on its mind.

Obama did not "lose Iraq"

The DC blame game is revving up, as it always does when something goes wrong.  The GOP and other hawks are looking to restart the Iraq war again but also to find someone to blame for the ISIS gains and the lousy performance of the Iraqi government.  But having a residual force of US troops depended on Iraqi political groups agreeing to an extension of the 2008 security agreement. 

Iraqi domestic politics made it impossible to reach a deal. Iraqi public opinion surveys consistently showed that the U.S. military presence was deeply unpopular (only in Iraqi Kurdistan did a majority of people want American G.I.s to stay).

Read more from Politico.

The case for universal school lunches

There are ways to battle poverty and its stigma.  Here is one reported by Salon.com.

Right now, the Community Eligibility Provision is limited in its scope. Schools with a lot of poor kids will be able to implement universal free lunch, but not any others. Yet, it is those other schools with far fewer poor kids where the stigma is probably most severe. The only way to tackle this anti-poor stigma everywhere is to implement a full-blown universal free lunch program, like countries such as Finland and Sweden have done.
Every kid needs to go to school and every kid needs to eat while at the school. We publicly fund the school and we should publicly fund the school meals. In addition to the stigma-reducing benefits mentioned above, such a move would just generally provide relief to parents of all sorts and signal a communal commitment toward ensuring no child goes hungry.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

President Obama's commencement address on climate change

Vox.com reprinted the transcript.  Select quotes follow but you can read the entire transcript here.

For lawmakers he had this:

These days, unfortunately, nothing is happening. Even minor energy efficiency bills are killed on the Senate floor. And the reason is because people are thinking about politics instead of thinking about what's good for the next generation. What's the point of public office if you're not going to use your power to help solve problems?

And for the graduates a plea to get involved.

And I want to tell you all this not to discourage you. I'm telling you all this because I want to light a fire under you. As the generation getting shortchanged by inaction on this issue, I want all of you to understand you cannot accept that this is the way it has to be. 

More quotes follow the break.

Iraq watch: "look at all we've won with the saber and the gun"

Phil Ochs might have been singing this about the Iraq war.

"It's always the old to lead us to the war 

It's always the young to fall 

Now look at all we've won with the saber and the gun 

Tell me is it worth it all "

The "old", as in GOP and John McCain, are at it again (as reported in Nation of Change). 

The same people who got the US into the mistaken Iraq War are now urging President Obama to use military force in Iraq again. Republican hawks are using the violence in Iraq as a political tool that is escalating pressure for US military intervention. But, if the US follows the rule of law — both US and international law — the president does not have the authority to attack Iraq without Congressional and UN authorization.
John McMain went roaring onto the Senate floor  “calling on the entire Obama administration national security team to resign.” McCain urged immediate action saying “Every hour the options become fewer and fewer as ISIS, the most radical terrorist group alive, sweeps across Iraq.” On the House side, John Boehner mocked: ““What’s the president doing? Taking a nap?”

And we are going to jump into a 3-way civil war?  Getting into Iraq the last time didn't turn out so well for anyone - other than maybe the ISIS.

Did AZ State Senator Kelli Ward propose antiaircraft guns at AZ borders?

Actually, no, she did not.  She did ask Gov. Brewer to use the National Guard and county sheriffs to stop buses full of immigrants.  She said that Arizona needs to “secure our borders with surrounding states.”  However:

Only thing is, there are no buses filled with migrants crossing into Arizona from New Mexico for deputies or soldiers to stop or turn around: Those captured in Texas by Customs and Border Protection are being flown to Arizona for processing. Only after that are they being taken by bus to the local Greyhound terminals where they can catch transportation to somewhere else.

Hence the question in the title.  If Senator Ward wants to stop immigrants at the AZ border, what recourse is there other than shooting down the planes?  How about we build an iron curtain around AZ's airspace?  Think about the economic benefit of gun dealers selling ack-ack guns or SAMs.  New businesses could get a pass on the antiaircraft guns by parachuting their new employees into the state.  

Once again, an AZ legislator drags the state through Comedy Central.

Cartoon of the day

No matter how bad the news is, we've got to take time for humor.  Here's one about the Jihadi Rifle Association.

Short takes

Which disease is most likely to kill you: country by country analysis

Get rid of income tax?  No, get rid of sales tax!

Inequality watch: Robert Reich takes on the GOP's three biggest lies about poverty

I'll list the lies here for free.  

Lie #1: Economic growth reduces poverty.

Lie #2: Jobs reduce poverty.

Lie #3: Ambition cures poverty.

To get Reich's excellent rebuttal, you have to click and read the essay.  Do it.  It's worth arming yourself against those persistent lies.

Water watch: If Lake Mead becomes a "dead pool" ...

"the consequences could be dire:"

For the first time, the state agency that operates the multibillion-dollar Central Arizona Project warns that water shortages could hit Tucson and Phoenix as soon as five years from now.
Such shortages would occur if Lake Mead, now about 1,085 feet elevation, drops below 1,000 feet. Then the lake becomes what CAP calls a “dead pool” in which operations are sharply curtailed.

It's more complicated, so read the full report from the AZ Daily Star here.

More on the fracturing of Iraq

The Sunnis in Iraq should be careful of what they ask for. Overthrow of the mainly Shiite government might be appealing to Sunnis, but consider the alternative.

When Islamic militants rampaged through the Iraqi city of Mosul last week, robbing banks of hundreds of millions of dollars, opening the gates of prisons and burning army vehicles, some residents greeted them as if they were liberators and threw rocks at retreating Iraqi soldiers.
It took only two days, though, for the fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to issue edicts laying out the harsh terms of Islamic law under which they would govern, and singling out some police officers and government workers for summary execution.
Under [the ISIS] vision, religion is paramount over administering services. Referring to citizens under its control, the pamphlet states, “improving their conditions is less important than the condition of their religion.” 

All this is the result of years of planning for an Islamic state.

And there is more to come.  ISIS is reported to execute hundreds.

The latest attack, if proved, would also raise the specter of the war in Iraq turning genocidal, particularly because the insurgents boasted that their victims were all Shiites. 

Most of the press on this covers the Sunni and Shiite conflict, but the Kurds have a territorial stake as well.

Overnight Saturday, at least six Kurdish forces were killed in shelling in northern Iraq in a shadowy incident that appeared to further muddy the waters of a conflict that threatens to split this country into autonomous Sunni-, Shiite-, and Kurdish-ruled territories.
 ... the Kurds have also been in open dispute with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government for months, and though they share Maliki’s view of ISIS as a threat, the Kurds have also used the jihadists’ rapid defeat of Iraqi government forces in the north to consolidate Kurdish control of long-contested areas.

As Tom Friedman explains, the Kurds are a ray of hope for part of Iraq.  They have placed "improving their conditions" above religion.

In the recent chaos, the Kurds have now taken full military control of Kirkuk, but I can tell you this: Had Maliki governed Iraq like Karim governed Kirkuk, we would not have this mess today. With the right leadership, people there can live together.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

The limited options for the US in Iraq: Revisiting the Biden solution

Yesterday (6/13) the President ruled out ground troops.  But there is nothing anyone can do that will stop the neocon buzz.  McCain and Graham and the rest are already out there advocating military action including a new invasion.  That's nuts.  The last time we listened to these guys we got our selves bogged down in a country whose politics have roots a dozen centuries ago.  Why listen to them now?

Joe Biden had it right in 2006 - decentralize power along ethnic lines to Kurd, Sunni, and Shia.  It may be too late, but the country is headed there anyway so is there some way to help them to the end game without all the blood-letting?  Probably not.  The difference now is this militant group, ISIS, making military advances in the absence of any apparent Sunni political leadership.

Most often the Scriber aligns pretty well with Blog for Arizona.  But check this.  "If the goal is to keep Iraq in one piece, supporting those friendly forces with cash, arms and supplies will quickly become a necessity."  Is that our goal?  Scriber asks "why?"  The question takes urgency from this article at Blog for Arizona:

The Iraqi army has a less than good relationship with local populations and police forces. The Sahwa fighters, Sunni tribal fighters trained by the Americans, were able to contain ISIS related forces several years ago. Due to political bungling by the central government, its relations with Sahwa have deteriorated to the point that the Sunnis are no longer inclined to fight for the central government.

Ethical questions about Huppenthal on the internet

Here is an interesting post on an issue I've been following via posts on Blog for Arizona.  John Huppenthal, Superintendent of Public Instruction, is accused of some unethical internet behavior, specifically editing entries on Wikipedia for purposes of self-aggrandizement and denigration of political opponents.  You have to read this one to get the sense of the issues and how internet sleuths operated to trace Wikipedia edits to Huppenthal.  He is charged with doing this stuff over several years (like when he was in the AZ Senate).

The importance of early childhood enrichment: As we leave our children behind ...

What is intelligence?  That's too big a question for a scientist, but that's the one that lured me as an undergraduate to the study of psychology, and particularly to the study of the effects of early experience on intellectual and emotional development.  I read about the post-World War II orphanage studies; infants left in their cribs without much human contact appeared listless and developmentally impaired.  Other species, I learned, like monkeys and rats, also show harmful effects of impoverished early environments.  It should then be no surprise that as early as kindergarten children raised in poverty perform poorly on various intellectual measures.  What is surprising revolting is that the richest nation on earth is so accepting of that state of affairs.  These children will grow up being less effective at learning and earning and thus perpetuate poverty. For them the American dream is unrecognizable.  Check out the results of the kindergarten report from Vox.com.

The filibustered student loan bill: The Elizabeth Warren effect

Senator Warren has a way of imposing her own frame on economic issues.  Here she blasts McConnell for blocking her student load refinancing bill.  Pass the word to students, parents, grandparents: 

This is not a matter of ideology - this is a matter of the pocketbook of whoever is paying for your education.  Vote for those who care about you - those who favor the refinancing bill.

Short takes

Eric Cantor's defeat: About David Brat and the Tea Party

Battle for the House Majority Leadership:  Labrador vs. McCarthy vs. the I-Don't-Like-Anyone-Very-Much crowd.

From Vox.com: The US energy system in 11 maps (Thanks to Linda Laird for this one.)

Americans (even conservatives) love their social security

The vanishing ideological middle in one interactive graphic

Friday, June 13, 2014

What if the map of the Middle East was redrawn?

That's not an idle question - it is happening right now.  Here are various views of the  conflict in Iraq.

If a redrawn map respected the distributions of ethnic and religious groups, it might look something like the map in this article.  Note the new "Kurdistan." Also note that the territories emerging from the present conflict in Iraq resemble the partitioning represented in the map.  

More background on the Sunni-Shia conflict with maps here.

It seems to me that our continued presence in Iraq just slows down a painful process by which the redrawn map, or something close to it, will be realized.  Putting Iraq back together will take a major land war in the Middle East.  The US, and the world, is not prepared for that.

So: we need to ask a hard question: exactly what does the US get from continued military presence in Iraq?  Various takes from NY Times and Politico.

Clearly the oil supply is at stake as the Sunni insurgents (ISIL) have got much of Iraq's fields - or soon will.  This is a powerful reason to get off of a fossil fuel energy dependence.