Thursday, July 31, 2014

The case for legalizing marijuana

The New York Times has a truly excellent piece on the risks of marijuana use - and the risks are low, very low, relative to those posed by other drugs including alcohol and tobacco.  Here are some summary passages but the article should be a required read for its complete coverage of what science says about various questions. (Oops - science?  That will scare off our policy makers.)  Also, note that this is one of a series of analytical pieces on consequences of "repeal prohibition, again" - or continuing to jail people for use of a relatively harmless substance.  Big hat-tip to NYT for its journalism.

For Michele Leonhart, the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, there is no difference between the health effects of marijuana and those of any other illegal drug. “All illegal drugs are bad for people,” she told Congress in 2012, refusing to say whether crack, methamphetamines or prescription painkillers are more addictive or physically harmful than marijuana.
Her testimony neatly illustrates the vast gap between antiquated federal law enforcement policies and the clear consensus of science that marijuana is far less harmful to human health than most other banned drugs and is less dangerous than the highly addictive but perfectly legal substances known as alcohol and tobacco. Marijuana cannot lead to a fatal overdose. There is little evidence that it causes cancer. Its addictive properties, while present, are low, and the myth that it leads users to more powerful drugs has long since been disproved.

For example, here are some percentages of the general population who tried various substances and became dependent.

SubstancePercent triedPercent dependent
Tobacco7632
Alcohol9215
Cocaine1617
Marijuana469

Faced with facts, it is hard to argue against legalization.  

The Times series is a recommended read.

Dodgy Dicey Ducey Disingenuously Declines Debate

Really, Mr. Ducey?  You are a candidate for Governor of this state and you duck debates?

On the other hand, perhaps he knew it might be ho-hum. And in the main it was.

(Viewing the streamed debate last night was BOR-ing so we discussed delightful D-words.)

From the Daily Star:

Scott Smith ... took a jab at the only Republican candidate not in the room — state Treasurer Doug Ducey.
Smith was hoping to get Ducey to follow up to an answer the former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery gave at a debate a week ago, but he noted Ducey had skipped this debate as well as one earlier in the week in Mesa.
Looking at Jones directly, Smith said they both had questions for Ducey and openly hinted that Ducey may have lied in a response last week.
A spokesperson for the Ducey campaign said the Republican candidate for governor had a conflict, preventing him from participating in first debate to be held in Tucson.
A representative for the League of Women Voters of Greater Tucson, which helped organize the debate, said all of the candidates were invited shortly after all six candidates had filed their campaign paperwork several months ago.

And Dicey's outfit still could not juggle his schedule?  Perhaps Dicey got lost among the dark dollars.

The reporting on this is pretty soft, but then so was the "debate."

P. S. A short distance away three Democratic candidates - DuVal, Rotellini, and Goddard - fired up their crowd.  Linda Valdez covered both events.  She reports the debate Dicey Ducey dodged was a dud, but the Democrats carried the day. 

Will there be "Thirteen Days" this October?

Bear with me, please.  There is a bit of background here from which I will draw an analogy to current events in Ukraine.

 82 days from now is the 52nd anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, taking President John F. Kennedy's address to the nation as the benchmark - October 22, 1962.  (Actually, the Russian preparations had gone on for quite some time and the U.S. knew of them before that address.)  Following is a recap of events of the rest of that month (quotes and chronology from Wikipedia; see also the film "Thirteen Days").

We took grave exception to having ICBMs 90 miles from our border.  Kennedy announced the quarantine.

At 7:00 pm Washington time, U.S. President Kennedy announced in a nationally broadcast address that "unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites" had been established in Cuba by the Soviet Union "to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere". He announced "a strict quarantine on offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba" and warned that any launch of a nuclear missile from Cuba would require "a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union." Kennedy implored, "I call upon Chairman Khrushchev to halt and eliminate this clandestine, reckless and provocative threat to world peace and to stable relations between our nations." 

Events during October 23 - 26 are listed after the break below.

[October 27.  Midday, a U2 spy plane was shot down.  Kennedy was under pressure by the Joint Chiefs to bomb Cuba.  Later the most frightening part of the confrontation became known.] ... the Soviet submarine B-59 was detected by U.S. Navy destroyers in the Atlantic Ocean, and one of the ships began dropping explosive depth charges to force the sub to surface. Thirty years later, a communications intelligence officer on the B-59, would report that the Captain Valentin Savitsky ordered a nuclear-armed torpedo to be armed for firing at the U.S. ships, and that the second-in-command, Vasili Arkhipov, persuaded Savitsky to surface instead.
[October 28]  In an agreement worked out by Khrushchev and Kennedy with the assistance of U.N. Secretary-General U Thant, the U.S. pledged not to invade Cuba, and to remove Jupiter missiles that had been placed in Turkey near its border with the U.S.S.R.

So we had stationed offensive weapons on the Russian border and the Russians did the same to us.

With respect to the Ukraine events, My argument is that the Ukraine situation is analogous to the Cuban missile crisis.  Katrina vanden Heuvel, writing in The Nation, explains some of the Russian reactions.

If any professional "intelligence" existed in Washington, Putin's reaction was foreseeable. Decades of NATO expansion to Russia's border, and a failed 2008 US proposal to "fast-track" Ukraine into NATO, convinced him that the new US-backed Kiev government intended to seize all of Ukraine, including Russia's historical province of Crimea, the site of its most important naval base. In March, Putin annexed Crimea.

She makes a broader case for Russia's ethnic and economic stakes in Eastern Ukraine in her article - that you should read.

Having no good idea at this time about OUR stakes in the Ukraine, I've got to ask the question in vanden Heuvel's headline:  "Why Is Washington Risking War With Russia?"  And then wait anxiously for the events of October 22, 2014.

ALEC expands with new offshoot organization, targets cities and counties

The Guardian reports.  

Alec has been described variously as a “corporate bill mill” and as a “corporate dating service”. It brings together lobbyists for big businesses and elected politicians into the same room, and encourages them to frame business-friendly legislation that is then made concrete in the form of model pieces of legislation that are disseminated in state assemblies throughout the country.
The new network, ACCE, will follow the same basic structure, with corporate lobbyists introduced through the organization to elected city and county council members with the aim of promoting policies advantageous to those companies. Big businesses are asked to pay up to $25,000 a year for the privilege of having such direct and intimate input into the legislative process.

As you might expect, whatever disasters ALEC has unleashed on state governments will be replicated in counties and cities.

The Brownback tax cuts [that are blowing a hole in the Kansas budget] were devised on the advice of the economist Arthur Laffer. He is the co-author of Alec’s annual report, Rich States, Poor States (pdf), that ranks each state in the country according to a set of conservative standards including low taxes, limited trade union rights and reduced regulations.
Laffer is also centrally involved in the launch of Alec’s new city initiative. On Thursday he will be guest of honour at the ACCE lunch.
... city-based politicians needed to be wary of the new network. “Under ACCE’s influence, local councils will see more privatization, more public services sold off or cut, and decision-making increasingly in the hands of large corporations far away.”

As I noted in yesterday's blog, given the dim prospects for Congress, Dems need to focus on state, county, and city levels.  ACCE is moving in to a city and county near you and we cannot let that be the only voice in town.

Just because he studies the brain does not mean he has a mind

The essence of the story (from azcentral.com) is that a neuroscientist from Phoenix has twice been observed carrying an AR15 in the Sky Harbor airport.  In the most recent case, he unslung the weapon and the muzzle was pointed at passengers outside a gate.  

A medical researcher didn't hurt anyone when he carried an AR-15 rifle into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport last week, but he certainly ignited a debate.
Gun rights advocate Alan Korwin said Peter Nathan Steinmetz was perfectly within his rights to bring the rifle into the public section of the airport: only the area behind the Transportation Security Administration security checkpoint is a "gun free zone.''
Phoenix Police Sgt. Steve Martos doesn't disagree, but he said visitors to the airport have to apply common sense when deciding whether to bring such a weapon along.
Police said a woman and her 17-year-old daughter reported fearing for their safety when Steinmetz removed his AR-15 from his shoulder with the muzzle facing towards them in a waiting area.

But their fear (like dead children in school shootings) is a small price to pay for exercise of 2nd amendment rights. <sarcasm off ... on second thought ...>

[Korwin] said anyone who would criticize Steinmetz, or others who choose to arm themselves, should think about what would happen if terrorists struck at at Sky Harbor, or if criminals decided to commit a crime there.
"If the Jihad were to start at this airport, you would be very happy he was there," Korwin said.

I have thought about it.  I would NOT be happy to have a guy with a gun but no brain running about the airport shooting at people.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wanted: Masks and muzzles for GOP candidates

Those are especially needed for Iowa GOP Senate candidate Joni Ernst.  Apparently she aims to apply hog castration techniques to the federal government.  Damn the constitution, full speed ahead, nullify, impeach, ... oops, her party was a little late in telling her to lay off the unconstitutional silliness.  You gotta pity that party if this is the best they have to offer.  Report from Joan Walsh at Salon.com.

House Progressive Caucus holds hearing on unaccompanied children

"Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus convened a meeting on humanitarian concerns surrounding the flood of unaccompanied Central American immigrant children crossing the Mexico border into the U.S. Three children and four experts testified."  Here is a C-SPAN video of the hearing.  h/t Raul Grijalva

Following are links to texts of news reports, the first from AZ Daily Star (tucson.com).  

Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., who convened a hearing of the Progressive Democratic Caucus on Tuesday, presented their testimonies as a way to get a direct look at the issue of unaccompanied Central American youths crossing illegally into the United States.
A proposed change to the 2008 law would allow for faster deportations of Central American children caught in the United States. Now, these children are provided safe shelter here as their immigration status is decided. More than 50,000 of these unaccompanied minors have been caught at the Southwestern border this year, reports show.
Opponents of the proposed changes said this could lead to the children, like the three who testified, being sent back to dangerous situations from which they fled.
Saul Martinez, 15, said he fled El Salvador in April. ... “I have seen horrors that no child ought to see,” he said, looking toward the members of Congress.

So we want to make it easier to send him back?  Scriber sides with Grijalva on this one.

“We’re missing the point that as a nation, we’re the embodiment of those values that protect the weaker, those values that protect people fleeing persecution and prosecution unjustly and today we’re going to hear from those young people that did just that,” said Grijalva.

Here is another report from Phoenix New Times. h/t AZBlueMeanie.

Democrats (and progressives) need our own ALEC. It's here!

... as Katrina vanden Heuvel reports in the Washington Post.

ALEC started in 1973.  

From the Executive Director of the merger of two organizations (PSN-ALICE), the American Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange and the Progressive States Network: “For nearly a generation, conservatives have outpaced us at the business of movement-building in states. They have focused hard on it, poured resources into it and have been ruthlessly efficient at it. Starting now, we will do the same.”

That's a good start but it's 14,600 days late and 1,000,000,000 dollars short.  We need to play a lot of catch-up and to play it hard at the state level.  Congress is crippled and the prospects for change are not good.  At the state level, however, we can co-opt the GOP line and start the long slog of taking America back.

Quotes for today

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) recently deflected questions about climate change by saying, "I'm not a scientist."  Now Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist has offered a response. He said, according to SaintPetersBlog: "I'm not a scientist either but I can use my brain and I can talk to one."  Quotes from Daily Kos.

"We're not gonna impeach the president of the United States. There just aren't the votes there even if we believed that it was warranted."  -- Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), in an interview with KFYI. From politicalwire.com

Short takes

Coming soon to an airport near you: Open carry of assault weapon freaks out passengers at Phoenix airport

Colbert starts Angry Echo Chamber ($9.94 per month) in response to Sarah Palin Channel ($9.95 per month).  Colbert skewers Palin on this really excellent video - watch at PoliticalWire.com.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

House passes HR 4935 on child tax credit: How public policy contributes to income inequality

Here is the blurb from AZ Daily Star (tucson.com) on Sunday.

Voting 237 for and 173 against, the House on July 25 passed a bill (HR 4935) that would increase income thresholds for receiving the child tax credit while indexing those thresholds and the credit itself for inflation starting in 2015. The credit now stands at $1,000 for each child 16 and younger. The bill would add $114.9 billion to the national debt over 11 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. In addition, it would effectively deny the child tax credit to families where the children but not their undocumented parents are U.S. citizens. Under the bill, the threshold at which the credit begins to phase out would be raised from $110,000 to $150,000 for married couples filing jointly and from $55,000 to $75,000 for married persons filing separately, while remaining at $75,000 for single filers. Those levels would rise with inflation.

And here are the votes, also reported in the Star.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate, where it is likely to die.Yes: Barber, Gosar, Salmon, Schweikert, Franks, Sinema.  No: Kirkpatrick, Grijalva, Pastor.

Here is what was not reported - from Mother Jones' Kevin Drum.

If the House legislation became law, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that a couple making $160,000 a year would receive a new tax cut of $2,200. On the other hand, the expiring provisions of the CTC would cause a single mother with two kids making $14,500 to lose her full CTC, worth $1,725.

So, among other things, the provisions of this bill raise taxes on the poor and lowers taxes on the rich.  This is an example of how public policy contributes to income inequality.

And on top of that: the bill would "deny the child tax credit to families where the children but not their undocumented parents are U.S. citizens ..."  The House did this because ...? I guess it costs less to feed a child if you are undocumented than if you are wealthy and white.

What you should know about Ebola

Ebola facts: The short version

Ebola facts: What else you should know

Short takes

Poll says more independents plan to vote this year

AZ Republic catches flak from readers for endorsing Dicey Ducey

Kwasman makes the New Yorker magazine.  Must be easier ways to get PR.  h/t David Safier

What does God think about the fence?  Linda Valdez at azcentral.com thinks apparently not much.  Scriber is waiting for the 40 days and 40 nights to take out the rest.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Magical Moderate Makeover for Martha McSally

OK, don't get on my case about being sexist.  I practice EO - equal offensiveness - by following Molly Ivins in referring to Rick Perry as Governor Goodhair.  With that out of the way check out the transcript of her new ad (from tucson.com report, with minor formatting changes).

Here's a screen shot of McSally in the ad (from Joe Ferguson at the Daily Star).


Text of the ad (Scriber observations in italics.)

(Jamie [no last name given], speaking)  “Martha is the most determined, trustworthy, loyal person I know.” [This might be a line spoken by brain-washed soliders about Raymond Shaw (The Manchurian Candidate).]
(Jeree [no last name given], speaking)  “She really wants to do right by everyone.”
(Helene [no last name given], speaking)  “When the job I had for nine years up and left the country, Martha helped me.”  [Kind of short on specifics?]
(Jamie, speaking)  “It is a struggle day to day to make sure I can provide for my kid and I know that Martha is going to be able to bring in the business that we need to keep the jobs."
(Josh [no last name given,] speaking)  “She understands how to relate to people, how to connect with people.”
(Martha McSally, speaking)  “I am running for Congress I don’t walk by a problem. I have a fire in my belly to make a difference and when things are broken, I want to fix them."
(Stacey [no last name given,] speaking)  “When I was diagnosed with Leukemia , she stopped what she was doing and then she was beside me the whole way."
(McSally, speaking)  "Service means helping others. Service means doing what is best for others instead of what is best for yourself. And we need servant leadership in Washington D.C. more than ever.  I am Martha McSally and I approve this message because together we can make a difference. "

Scriber wonders about the possibility of these testifying folks all coming from the same family, surname of "no last name given."

Clearly, McSally's handlers learned from her previous defeats and are presenting a softer, kinder, more centrist image.  Just remember:  what I recall from a 2012 primary debate is that she is the one who said there is no difference between her and her then opponent, Jesse Kelly, with respect to core values.  That's why I place no credibility in the new McSally.  The old Colonel McSally still lurks, but now just  gone MIA - Moderate In Appearance. 

Help for McSally from rivals: The CD2 GOP trio, Kais, McSally, and Wooten "debated" Saturday in Quail Creek to a standing room only crowd

"Debated" is debatable given that they largely echoed GOP talking points and each other.  There were, however, some differences.  Here is one. (Snippets from Tucson.com.)

The trio were also asked to take a hypothetical stance on whether they would have voted for the debt ceiling if they had been in Congress last year.
McSally said she would never have let the events unfold that temporarily shut down the government. Asked if she would have voted to increase the debt ceiling, she prefaced her answer by saying the shutdown should have been avoided in the first place.
“We shouldn’t have been in that situation and I wasn’t there,” McSally said. “So we want to lose full faith and credit in the United States? I don’t think so. So we’ve got to pay our bills but moving forward we have to get our spending under control.” [Scriber: So this was an answer?]
Wooten compared federal spending to an addiction and said it has to stop, vowing never to vote to increase the debt ceiling.
Kais also said she would not have voted to increase the debt ceiling.

There is a rumor out there about Kais being a spoiler for Wooten, the idea being that watering down the Tea Potty vote helps McSally.  Nonsense, your Scriber says.  Both Kais and Wooten, by vowing to vote against the debt ceiling, in McSally's words, "want to lose full faith and credit in the United States."  By looking that bad, Kais and Wooten make McSally look good.  That fits with McSally's Magical Moderate Makeover.  I can't help thinking that Kais and Wooten are in cahoots to help McSally win.

Islamic State destroys mosques in Mosul, residents flee

The IS (aka ISIS or ISIL) are not the good guys.

The group has imposed a self-styled caliphate in territory they control in Iraq and Syria, imposing its harsh interpretation of Islamic law.
The militants claim that such mosques have become places for apostasy, not prayer.

The locals flee the IS.

Since the Islamic State launched its blitz across Iraq, more than a million people have fled their homes, according to the United Nations. Many have escaped to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
In a statement published on Kurdish state media late on Saturday, the president of the Kurdish regional government, Massoud Barzani, said the bombing of churches and mosques in Mosul "is against all the principles of the heavenly religions, humanity, and it is targeting the culture and demographic of the area".

Sounds like what the Taliban did to Afghan culture.

See full report at TheGuardian.com.

Short takes

NY Times makes the case to end "pot prohibition"

Governor Ultrasound: no end of legal problems

Colorado river basin drying up faster

Has the Democratic party lost its soul?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Let's lead with the Sunday Funnies: Mary Poppins asks for minimum wage, a documentary on the Or-acle Deb-acle, and cartoons to start the week

Mary Poppins wants a minimum wage. (h/t Linda Laird)

Video blasts Oracle nativists and others. (Funny? Well, in the sense of biting wit.) Scroll/read down to the link "latest mini-documentary on the insanity in Oracle". 

Cartoons from Blog for Arizona

Sunday Scaries: Hudbay takes over Rosemont, plans more mines in AZ

The Daily Star editorial board interviewed top Hudbay officials and filed this report.

The company that just took over the long-delayed Rosemont Mine project hopes to develop more mines in Arizona and possibly near Tucson, its officials say.

Will they develop claims on the western slope of the Santa Ritas?  They did not say no!

Q. You've talked about hoping to extend the life of the mine. What about those three parcels on which you have mining claims north and west of Rosemont — Broadtop Butte, Peach Elgin and Copper World? Are you going to drill and pursue those?
Merrin: We're very focused on building the mine in the purview of the permit. We're not interested in changing that. We look at those satellite deposits, we just don’t know, the honest answer is that we don’t know if they could become economic. We don’t know if they'll ever get permitted. It's premature to know when we have so little information.

Here is the part about water shortages.

Q: What about the CAP water pipeline, to recharge CAP water near Green Valley?
Garofalo: We don’t know. We're getting on the ground. We've been here four days. We need to get in and understand them.
Merrin: I believe we see the CAP thing as contractual. In the final environmental impact statement, anything in there (for mitigation), is commitments.
Q. There’s been a lot of news lately about the Colorado River, and how Lake Mead is dropping and that there may not be enough water there to satisfy all our Central Arizona Project uses in a few years or longer. If that happens, how will that affect your ability to compensate for your mine’s groundwater pumping, for which you plan to bring down CAP water in the pipeline?
Merrin: I don’t think we’re in a position to comment right now on it.
Garofalo: Water management is an issue wherever we are, in southern Peru, in Manitoba. Sometimes dealing with excess water, sometimes dealing with a lack of water. We still have solutions each way.

So did Rosemont's parent, Augusta, have a solution: we will take the groundwater and you saps can live with CAP water - if you can find any.  And that has not changed.

Does anyone think that if this mine is approved it will be helpful to the water situation in Southern Arizona?  If you do, perhaps we should be hoping for a biblical deluge - 40 days and 40 nights?

AZ Republic endorses Ducey (but prefers Smith?????)

Beginning to look like Du-Val vs. Du-Cey.

The Arizona Republic just sold itself out.  They have endorsed Scriber's favorite GOP candidate, Dicey Ducey, the worst of a bad circus of GOP candidates for AZ Governor.  They made that endorsement even though they claim that Mesa Mayor Scott Smith is the candidate that best lines up with their values.  

This is going to be a fun election (at least for us bloggers).  Ducey's first pick for an advisor was Cathi Herrod - SB1062 architect.  Second pick was Jon this-was-not-meant-to-be-accurate Kyl.

Scriber has featured commentary by AZ Republic columnists in the past - Montini, Roberts, Valdez - all astute observers of the local scene - and will continue to do so.  But I almost wish that I had a subscription so I could cancel it.  Hmmm.  Maybe I will subscribe so that I can .... spouse says don't even think about it!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Freshman GOP congressman lectures senior (U. S.) government officials on their country (India).

I was going to focus this morning's edition on the Central America kids (and I do below), but, sorry, I cannot resist.  This is from yesterday evening (transcript from ForeignPolicy.com).

The Rachel Maddow show is on as I write this, so h/t to Rachel.  This is an incredible indictment of the idiocy of people we send to congress.

In an intensely awkward congressional hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, freshman Rep. Curt Clawson misidentified two senior U.S. government officials as representatives of the Indian government.
The two officials, Nisha Biswal and Arun Kumar, are Americans who hold senior positions at the State Department and Commerce Department, respectively. 
Although both Biswal and Kumar were introduced as U.S. officials by the chairman of the Asia and Pacific subcommittee, Clawson repeatedly asked them questions about "your country" and "your government," in reference to the state of India.
"I'm familiar with your country; I love your country," the Florida Republican said. 
"Anything I can do to make the relationship with India better, I'm willing and enthusiastic about doing so."
Apparently confused by their Indian surnames and skin color, Clawson also asked if "their" government could loosen restrictions on U.S. capital investments in India.
"Just as your capital is welcome here to produce good-paying jobs in the U.S., I'd like our capital to be welcome there," he said. "I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing. Can I have that?"
The question prompted a lengthy pause and looks of confusion from State Department and congressional staff attending the hearing.
"I think your question is to the Indian government," Biswal said. "We certainly share your sentiment, and we certainly will advocate that on behalf of the U.S." [Very diplomatic.  That's why she is in State and I am not.]
During the hearing, he [Clawson] repeatedly touted his deep knowledge of the Indian subcontinent and his favorite Bollywood movies. [This was an incredibly self-serving presentation - you gotta view it to believe it!]  None of his fellow colleagues publicly called him out on the oversight -- perhaps going easy on him because he's the new guy. [Or maybe the new white guy?]

He later issued a response. 

What he said was: "I made a mistake in speaking before being fully briefed and I apologize. I'm a quick study, but in this case I shot an air ball".

What he meant to say was: I f'd up and didn't do my homework and am full of myself.  

What he should have said: I embarrassed myself, the Congress, my country, and I resign.

P. S.  Apparently Florida's Tea Party is not doing too well in choosing their candidates.

>>The Tea Party-backed lawmaker [Clawson] won a special election last month to fill the seat of Trey Radel, who resigned after being convicted for cocaine possession. Clawson pitched himself as an outsider with private sector experience and touted his role as chief executive of an aluminum wheel company. [Maybe all his wheels were not engaged?]

Friday, July 25, 2014

What we value - Lesson #1: "when it comes to the well-being of children, Arizona remains among the worst 5 states"

What does crazy AZ value?  Apparently not its children.  And if AZ does not value its  own children, why would anyone expect AZ to value the unaccompanied minors from Central America?  

"Send them back" was directed at these young refugees from an increasingly dangerous environment.  (Remember the US Congressmen who went to Central America and chickened out and hid in their safe hotel - and then had the gall to downplay the level of danger?)  

But where do we send those homegrown AZ children - those young citizens - who do not merit valuation in this, their own state?  Where is their "back" in "send them back"?

For a summary of how AZ treats its kids, see this blog by our own Michele Manos.  And then read the debunking of five myths about immigration by The Guardian (h/t Michele).  Preview on that: the U.S. rate of vaccination for measles is in the tank well behind vaccination rates for Mexico and Central America.

George Carlin defines the conservative approach to children

Want to know why AZ does not value its children?  George Carlin had a way of cutting right to the bone of social issues.  And he did so in the most graphic terms.  So <RBLA: Really bad language alert>, read on at your own risk.

"... Boy, these conservatives are really something, aren't they? They're all in favor of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you're born, you're on your own. Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don't want to know about you. They don't want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no day care, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you're preborn, you're fine; if you're preschool, you're fucked. Conservatives don't give a shit about you until you reach military age. Then they think you're just fine. Just what they've been looking for. Conservatives want live babies so they can raise them to be dead soldiers. Pro-life... pro-life... These people aren't pro-life, they're killing doctors! What kind of pro-life is that? What, they'll do anything they can to save a fetus but if it grows up to be a doctor they just might have to kill it? They're not pro-life. You know what they are? They're anti-woman. Simple as it gets, anti-woman. They don't like them. They don't like women. They believe a woman's primary role is to function as a brood mare for the state." - George Carlin, "Back in Town", 1996.

AZ is widely understood to be a conservative state with a predominantly Republican electorate and a GOP majority in the state legislature.  You think Carlin would have any trouble figuring out why AZ does not value its kids?

You will be shocked, SHOCKED I say, to learn that only Republicans and conservatives favor the lawsuit against Obama

This is from Greg Sargent at the Washington Post.

A new CNN poll finds that a majority of Americans oppose impeaching Obama by 65-33, and oppose the House GOP lawsuit against the president by 57-41. A majority disagree by 52-45 that he’s gone too far in expanding executive power.
You’ll be shocked to hear that only Republicans and conservatives support both impeaching the president and the lawsuit against him. Republicans support impeachment by 57-42; they support the lawsuit by 75-22. Among conservatives those numbers are 56-44 and 64-33.
Meanwhile, majorities of moderates and independents overwhelmingly oppose both. Among moderates the numbers on impeachment are 26-72 and on the lawsuit they are 34-62. Among independents the numbers are 35-63 and 43-55.

Perhaps the correct response to the lawsuit is "bring it on."  How better to illustrate how Republicans spend taxpayer money - while they do nothing of use for the nation.

Satellite research reveals major loss of groundwater

The Southwest just got hit with another water whammy.  The big reservoirs to the north that supply the CAP water are shrinking, but this new research shows the the groundwater depletion has been huge during the drought.

Researchers from NASA and the University of California-Irvine said their study is the first to quantify how much groundwater people in the West are using during the region’s current drought. The amount of groundwater depletion in this period far exceeded water losses at Lakes Powell and Mead, whose steep declines since 2000 have drawn much attention.
Since 2004, researchers said, the Colorado River Basin — the largest in the Southwest — has lost 53 million acre-feet, or 17 trillion gallons, of water. That’s enough to supply more than 50 million households for a year, or to nearly fill Lake Mead — the nation’s largest water reservoir — twice.
Three-fourths of those losses, or about 40 million acre-feet, were groundwater, the study found. That’s enough to supply the Central Arizona Project, which provides Tucson and Phoenix with drinking water, for about 26 years.

And we are going to permit how many water sucking mines?

Full report at Tucson.com here.

Short takes

Best piece of satire all year: Tom Danehy gives Ducey a column.  Or maybe its real?

Arizona rises to the top of the polarization scores for state legislatures.  AZ ranks third highest in its polarization score, and ranks second in its change in polarization since 1997.  We can be proud of our state for having reached the top in something.

Quote of the day: "Conservatives say if you don't give the rich more money, they will lose their incentive to invest. As for the poor, they tell us they've lost all incentive because we've given them too much money.” - George Carlin (h/t www.goodreads.com).

A charter school (message) coming soon to your neighborhood.  David Safier reveals some great quotes from a charter school organization on messaging.  "We should avoid using language that sounds corporate."

DuVal should be independents' choice for Governor

Speaking of dark money (see preceding post on SoS campaign cash): all that may backfire come election day.  We just have to keep asking, prodding the media to ask, who is behind it all. 

Recent polls (from GOP sources to be sure) have Dicey Ducey and Godaddy girl Christine Jones out front.  Why?  Because of money, much of it dark.  Both these candidates are as goofy in their campaign promises as it comes.  Satellites to secure the border?  Calling out the national guard and expecting the Fed to pay?  Shutting down income tax?

Here is a letter to the editor appearing in azcentral about what independents should do.

Regarding Republican gubernatorial candidates Doug Ducey and Christine Jones:
I realize attacking President Barack Obama is a tactic that works. Repeating his name over and over is even better! Ridiculous promises that can't be kept ("send the bill to Obama," etc.) appeal even more to the "tea party" crowd.
Meanwhile, moderate Scott Smith, a realistic, proven problem-solver, has been left in the dust of the two dark-money-financed flamethrowers.
This, of course, leaves me and other registered independents with Democrat Fred DuVal.
— Bob Ciardullo, Buckeye

I'll take a vote for DuVal for any reason, but there are serious positives in Fred's positions that I'll blog about here in the upcoming weeks.

Dark money for Secretary of State candidate: Who is paying for the ads and why?

Here is a real prize-winning example of the evils of dark money.  Laurie Roberts at azcentral has been tracking this one, revealing all kinds of suspicious facts about the financing of Justin Pierce's campaign.  

Somebody really, really, REALLY wants to see Justin Pierce elected as secretary of state.
So much so that somebody has thus far spent $385,264 to ensure that Pierce is the Republican nominee for the state's No. 2 spot.
Arizona Public Service officials won't say whether they are secretly funding the campaign as a "thank you" to Pierce's father, Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce, for his support. Curiously, they also don't deny it.
As of Monday, the Arizona Free Enterprise Club had spent an astonishing $336,974 to support Pierce and another $48,290 to attack Wil Cardon. (The third GOP candidate, Michele Reagan, has thus far not attracted the group's attention.)
That's in addition to $358,086 that the Arizona Free Enterprise Club has spent hoping to get Republicans Tom Forese and Doug Little elected to the Corporation Commission.
So who is the Arizona Free Enterprise Club and what is its interest in who sits in the Secretary of State's Office and on the Corporation Commission?

That is the million dollar question - literally - because that's the kind of cash being spent to get friendly folks on the Corporation Commission and in the state's number 2 position.  But the real question is friendly to whom?

Roberts nails it:

Its latest pro-Pierce, anti-Cardon ad touts Pierce as "the only candidate for Secretary of State that we can trust when it comes to our growing illegal immigration problem."
That raises two questions:
1. What does the job of secretary of state have to do with illegal immigration?
2. Who is "we"?

To splat or not to splat: The case for a more gruesome method of execution

EJ Montini (azcentral) follows a federal judge and makes the case for death by firing squad.  

Judge Kozinski from the 9th Court wrote:

"Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful—like something any one of us might experience in our final moments…
"But executions are, in fact, nothing like that. They are brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality. Nor should it. If we as a society want to carry out executions, we should be willing to face the fact that the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf…
"The firing squad strikes me as the most promising. Eight or ten large-caliber rifle bullets fired at close range can inflict massive damage, causing instant death every time. There are plenty of people employed by the state who can pull the trigger and have the training to aim true."

Montini continues:

As Judge Kozinski wrote: "Sure, firing squads can be messy, but if we are willing to carry out executions, we should not shield ourselves from the reality that we are shedding human blood. If we, as a society, cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by firing squad, then we shouldn't be carrying out executions at all."
It's that simple, really. That ugly
Splatter or no splatter.
Choose.

I am not a pacifist.  Nor do I harbor a strong aversion to the death penalty.  I do think such a penalty must be imposed with great care given the fallibility of our judicial system (to wit, the rate of false positives in eye witness testimony).  But if we  are going to execute people for horrendous crimes, after exhausting all possible alternative explanations to guilt, make the executions fast and final.

Now someone (generic "you") is likely to challenge my position on this, and that's OK.  But when you do, I would like an essay defending incarceration as the alternative.  If there is no hope of rehabilitation, then what is the purpose of a jail sentence of life in prison -- other than to remove the offending individual from society permanently?  (Perhaps there is more profit in a long jail term than in the expenditure of 10 bullets?)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why we should vote: If we don't vote, we lose, and look here to see who we lose to!

Thinking about not voting?  That's a prescription for losing.

Still thinking about not voting?  Six reasons to vote: Any of the 6 Republican candidates running for Governor would wreck the state.

STILL thinking about not voting (for a certain Congressman)? Think instead about the alternative.  Here is a good letter to the editor from Jim Woodbrey.

Want to know more about the Republican challengers in the CD2 US House race?  They all speak with same voice - just as they did in 2012.  Here is the summary of the so-called "debate".  Even the Sierra Vista Herald reporter could not tell the difference between McSally, Kais, and Wooten.  So commit now - and VOTE!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

AZ education: An expected outcome

Here are choice quotes from the Sierra Vista Herald on the status of public edcation in Arizona.

Earlier this month the Arizona Capitol Times published startling statistics showing a dramatic drop in the number of experienced teachers at state public schools.
Add those factors together — stagnant pay, a constant barrage of negative publicity from state lawmakers, and a complete lack of support from the State Superintendent’s office, and who can blame teachers for leaving the profession and taking their talents elsewhere?
In the end, it appears Arizona policy-makers and its legislators have accomplished their desired outcome.
The state now has fewer experienced teachers, it faces mass retirements in the near future, and Arizona is not in a position to provide business and industry with the kind of workforce it will need in the future.

The solution is obvious.  Get a new Superintendent of Public Instruction David Garcia) and elect a Governor who will be pro-education (Fred DuVal).

Scriber on vacation

Might blog a little on Wednesday and Thursday, but con't count on it.  Will be back on Friday.

Monday, July 21, 2014

What's in this Monday edition - cartoons and more

There are two posts on continuing commentary on the child refugees and more on the CAP water problem. But the longest post is one on the Koch's educational ambitions - not for themselves but for the nation's youth.  Scary!  Read the synopsis here and then be sure to click through for the investigative report.

First, here are some cartoons to get you started on the week (from Blog for Arizona).

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Nobel Prize winner Oscar Arias offers precription for child migrant crisis

Arias has the creds: Nobel Prize winner and former president of Costa Rica.  The solution: apply remedies for poverty and violence in home countries.  Writing in the Washington Post Arias points out the error in the current US debate.

The plight of the terrified Central American children who have flooded across the U.S. border to escape violence and poverty in their homelands has launched a passionate and often bitter debate in Washington. However, most U.S. leaders are missing the real lesson of this crisis, at their own peril. The conservatives who oppose President Obama’s request for emergency funds for the crisis criticize him for dealing only with the symptoms and not with the “root cause” of the problem. They are half right — but the half that’s wrong is very, very wrong. For them, the root cause is a lax immigration law, weak protections or insufficiently severe punishments. But no punishment, no wall and no army can solve this problem.

Arias takes us to task for our focus on the symptoms and not on the root causes - poverty and violence.

With Obama asking for $3.7 billion in emergency funds to address a tiny fraction of the symptoms of the disease, it is crazy not to consider much smaller investments that could help cure it at the root.

For example, Arias suggests:

For only $62 million, a monthly scholarship program similar to the one I implemented in Costa Rica could be offered for a full year to all 52,000 young people apprehended at the border so far this year.

That's just one small step but at least it would be forward motion.

Lake Mead shrinks: CAP water at risk

So why would we in the GV/Sahuarita area trade our ground water for CAP water?  If we just had to answer that question in isolation, the answer is obvious.  But Rosemont Copper, regardless of ownership, wants us to do exactly that.  The fact is that most of the residents in this area will not experience any economic benefit of the proposed mine.  However, those residents may well feel the effects of the coming water shortage.  Here's a report from the AZ Daily Star.

Koch High: Conquering America, one mind at a time

Two Huffington Post reporters have documented how the Kochtopus is infiltrating public education.  Their mechanism is a curriculum called Young Entrepreneurs (YE).  

Following are snippets to give you the gist of the report.  But please click through and read the whole thing - it has lots of documentation for what follows here.

Lesson plans and class materials obtained by The Huffington Post make the course's message clear: The minimum wage hurts workers and slows economic growth. Low taxes and less regulation allow people to prosper. Public assistance harms the poor. Government, in short, is the enemy of liberty.
... members of the Wu-Teach Clan [the YE design group] exchanged hundreds of emails with one another and with Koch lieutenants. They hashed out a strategy to infiltrate public schools after surveys showed that the wealthy prep school students largely failed to absorb their libertarian message. [The reporters]  know all this because the Wu-Teach Clan used a Google group that it had left open to the public.
With spending on public education under heavy assault -- in large part by Koch-funded organizations and politicians they support -- the nation's poorest school districts are in desperate need of resources, making the free Koch curriculum an attractive alternative to nothing.

So what we have here is a concerted attempt to defund public education, show thereby that public education fails, and replace it with a curriculum advocating the very principles and practices that cause public education to be at financial risk.  Remember Kansas? That's the state that has been cutting taxes and public expenditures and is now teetering on the edge of a financial ditch.  Koch Industries is headquartered in Wichita.

Koch-funded think tanks provide many of YE's course materials. Teachers are trained at Koch Industries headquarters and are required to read Charles Koch's book The Science of Success.
The focus on high school students is a key part of the Kochs' long-term effort to create a libertarian-minded society from the ground up.
"We hope to develop students' appreciation of liberty by improving free-market education," the Koch associates wrote during the program's initial planning stages. "Ultimately, we hope this will change the behavior of students who will apply these principles later on in life."
Today, to teach its most controversial lessons, YE often relies on videos provided by the Charles Koch-chaired Institute for Humane Studies, which operates out of George Mason University in Virginia. The videos are produced and marketed under an institute arm called Learn Liberty, which offers dozens of educational videos on libertarian and conservative topics.
One such video Davis [YE instructor] showed his students defended price-gouging. "Anti-gouging laws don't do anything to address" shortages, the video's narrator argues. Another video titled "Is There a Glass Ceiling?" asserts that the gender pay gap is a myth. Women earn around 75 cents for every dollar earned by men, it says, but not because of discrimination in the labor market. Rather, it's because of "differences in the choices that men and women make."
Youth Entrepreneurs is just one piece of the Kochs' slow creep into America's schools. The larger Koch effort pushes forward with think tanks, university programs and teacher seminars as well.
But with YE, the Koch pipeline for creating a new generation of liberty advancers now starts early: A student can take the YE course in high school, participate in the YE Academy to earn scholarship money and then use that money to pay for a degree from a Koch-funded university. So it isn't just a relatively small but growing high school program offered in Kansas and Missouri. It's part of a larger mission.

That mission being the Koch-quest of America, one mind at a time.


IF you had only one vote in 2014, how would you use it?

I put this question to a family member with some additional constraints - vote for any one candidate for any office.  She thought about it for all of 3 seconds and responded "Governor."  Of course.  The Governor is a person who can use the office to push a legislative agenda.  The Governor is also a person who can use the power of the veto to rein in legislative excesses.  We have seen both actions in the present administration.  Brewer pushed through the Medicaid expansion, but then she slapped the DREAMers by denying them drivers licenses.  Further afield there is a Republican governor in Kansas who pushed tax cuts and less spending on investments like education and infrastructure.  Kansas is an economic basket case. California has a Democratic governor who pushed through tax increases and increased spending on social and infrastructure programs.  California is booming.

Clearly who is Governor matters - a lot.  That's why if I had only one vote, I would cast it for who I hope is our next Governor - Fred DuVal.

h/t Paula Aboud

AZ Daily Star: "Migrant children fleeing danger is refugee crisis" - Does fast-tracking place children back in danger?

AZ Daily Star comments on immigration bill.

Efforts in Congress to fast-track processing for these children treat them as a byproduct of the broken immigration system rather than part of a refugee crisis. This has the very real potential to return children to the extremely dangerous homes they fled. The legislation, co-sponsored by Congressman Ron Barber, a Tucson Democrat, does not offer enough protection and is wrong.

Every child should be evaluated by qualified and trained interviewers taking the time necessary to determine if he qualifies for protection under domestic and international law. Each child should be represented by counsel.
Expediency doesn’t serve children in danger.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Elizabeth Warren's prescription for a values-based agenda

Warren is "passionate and precise" in the agenda reported by The Nation.

She says things that need to be said—about the agenda and about the attitude that might get Americans excited about not just a particular campaign (for president in 2016 or for US Senate seats in 2014) but about a political party that gets it.
“The game is rigged. And the rich and the powerful have lobbyists and lawyers and plenty of friends in Congress. Everybody else, not so much. So the way I see this is we can whine about it, we can whimper about it or we can fight back. I’m fighting back!”

Here are 10 points of the agenda.

1. “We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we’re willing to fight for it.”

2. “We believe in science, and that means that we have a responsibility to protect this Earth. And we will fight for it.”

3. “We believe that the Internet shouldn’t be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality. And we will fight for it.”

4. “We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty. That means raising the minimum wage. And we will fight for it. We will fight for it. And let me add to that: We believe that fast-food workers deserve a livable wage, and that means that when they take to the picket line, we are proud to fight alongside them.”

5. “We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt. And we are willing to fight for it. We are willing.”

6. “We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions. And we will fight for them. We will fight.”

7. “We believe— only I can’t believe I have to say this in 2014—we believe in equal pay for equal work. And we’re willing to fight for it.

8. “We believe that equal means equal, and that’s true in marriage, it’s true in the workplace, it’s true in all of America. And we’re willing to fight for it.”

9. “We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform. And we are willing to fight for it.”

10. “And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it.

So there is the challenge to the Democratic party: will we fight for it? 

Immigrant children deserve love, not hate

azcentral has a real empathic op-ed on the Central American refugees.

The author writes:

While obvious we're not talking about hurricanes, tropical storms or rising sea levels, headlines like these equate drug-war refugees to terrifying geological phenomena in ways that perpetuate the groundless belief that the appropriate response to the arrival of these families is to either barricade ourselves in our homes or expand militarization along the U.S.-Mexico border.
... [the] parents are doing precisely what many of our own ancestors did to escape poverty, violence and persecution. And as a mother of four, I know the parents of these children are doing exactly what I would do if I were faced with their circumstances. I would do whatever had to be done to keep my family safe. There is no body of water, desolate stretch of land, and certainly no man-made wall that would deter me.
We are living in a time in America when our legal immigration mechanisms are so misguided and inflexible that we are unable to respond with the proper ethical and moral acts required of us as a people. If our political leaders do not have the moral compass necessary to enact at least temporary protected status for these vulnerable children and their parents, then it is up to us as a community to intervene and ensure not only their safe passage but loving and dignified treatment as well.

Congressional delegation to Central America takes cover in hotels. GOP member denies danger. Congressmen seek refuge in US.

As you might expect, R's and D's in the delegation split on their (preconceived) perceptions of the reasons for Central American children seeking entrance to the US.  The Santa Fe New Mexican has a report on the Congressmen's visit to Central America.

The Republican view

Congressman Steve Pearce said Wednesday that most immigrants from Central America who are crossing illegally into the United States are driven by economic reasons, not fear of physical danger in their homeland. Pearce, R-Hobbs, said he was part of a seven-member working group from the U.S. House of Representatives that visited Guatemala and Honduras over the weekend.

The Democratic view

Heinrich, D-Albuquerque, said unaccompanied children entering the United States hope to escape gang violence and drug dealers in their native land. ... He said the Senate approved an immigration bill to aid refugees and provide the resources to crack down on drug smugglers and other criminals. The House of Representatives rejected it, leaving the country in a reactive posture instead of one in which problems could be solved, Heinrich said.

So what did the delegation do?

The reality-on-the-street view

Pearce [the R] said he and the rest of the House delegation that visited Honduras and Guatemala did not venture from their hotel very often because of the dangers ...

I'll bet Pearce is glad to be back in the good old US of A so that he can help find a way to ship the kids back.  Maybe he will pay their hotel bill.

h/t Mother Jones

The good, the bad, and the thugly: US support for corrupt governments in Central America

Not much good here - lots of bad and thugly in this Politico report on Honduras.  Our policies support the bad guys and then their country goes to hell and then their citizens look to us and then we send them back to the thugs.  Of thee I sing.

Downed airliner is a game changer in Europe

A post to talkingpointsmemo.com takes on Putin for Russia's reckless gifts of major arms to the separatists.  

Find extremists and hot-heads of the lowest common denominator variety, seed them with weaponry only a few militaries in the world possess - and, well, just see what happens. What could go wrong?

Maybe everything?

It's like finding some white supremacist/militia types on their little compound in the inter-Mountain west and giving them world class missile launchers and heavy armaments.
... having a passenger plane, filled with EU citizens, shot out of the sky above what is presumed to be the bubble of first world safety that is "Europe" is a game changing event not only in the Ukraine crisis but much more broadly about Putin's role in Europe generally.

Short takes

Stephen Lemons at Phoenix New Times: "Christine Jones puts the goober into gubernatorial."  Republican candidate for Governor Jones is delusional when it comes to understanding of a Governor's powers.

Brewer's legacy:  Public education champion "Gov. Jan Brewer said Thursday that the state will appeal a court ruling requiring Arizona to increase funding for Arizona's K-12 system."

The political calculator from Greg Sargent at Washington Post: motives within motives for action or inaction on immigration.

In case you missed it: Kwasman makes the Colbert report

Friday, July 18, 2014

Grijalva and Barber at odds over immigration bill

Tim Steller, in today's AZ Daily Star (now Tucson.com), reports different positions taken by our two Southern Arizona Congressmen on the Cornyn-Cuellar immigration bill.  That bill provides the resources to drastically speed up hearings for children from Central America and thus speed up their deportation.  Barber is a co-sponsor.  Grijalva is against the bill.  

That there should be a split opinion on this bill is not surprising given the recent events and the media uproar and the political jockeying.  But there is something that is getting lost in all this noise.  There is a moral side to whatever actions we take towards these kids.  Remember the "pipeline"?  The children are not coming here to work.  They are escaping a dangerous environment in their home countries.  Sending them back quickly feeds the anti-immigration crowd.  But doing so condemns the children to a return to the original life-threatening environment that they were escaping.  

There will be a cost to whatever we do given the moral dilemma.  But I would rather that we err on the side of the children's safety than to shoulder the responsibility for placing them once again at risk.  I side with Grijalva on this one.

What part of compassion don't you understand? A question for those who would ship children back to the dangers of Central America

Sometimes Scriber will liberally quote from articles but never has posted an entire article.  This one, by Linda Valdez writing in azcentral on July 17, is an exception.  It is short and the message is clear.

The old "what part of illegal don't you understand" crowd is back. Their inconsistencies are painfully obvious.
All they wanted for years was that we "enforce the immigration laws!"
They bitterly criticized migrants and employers who hired them for ignoring laws that were inconvenient.
Alas. Theirs was just an affair of convenience with the law, too.
Now they are clamoring to change an immigration law they don't like.
Why? It's inconvenient.
This Bush II-era law extends protections to the migrant kids surging across the Texas border. It's designed to assure they aren't sent back to certain danger.
Is there any part of compassion these folks understand?

Regulations and unions characterize thriving economies

Writing in the Washington Post, Harold Meyerson presents a stunning contrast between the U. S. and more heavily regulated and unionized European countries, notably Germany.  Both countries have a capitalist economy.  But they differ in both how capitalism is implemented and the economic and social outcomes.  

The latest edition of the CIA’s World Factbook spells out how Germany succeeds and the United States fails at these crucial tasks. The book ranks the planet’s 193 countries by their current account balances (that is, their trade balances) in 2013. Germany comes in first, with a surplus of $257 billion. The United States is last, with a deficit of $361 billion.

How else do these countries differ?

[English-speaking] economies are characterized by lower levels of regulation and worker rights than their Northern European counterparts, and most crucially, particularly in the United States and Britain, they have become dominated by finance. As Wall Street and “the City” (Britain’s financial sector) have waxed, their nations’ manufacturing sectors have waned. Crucial to this evolution (or devolution) has been an embrace of shareholder capitalism: the doctrine, first propounded by Milton Friedman, that corporations’ sole mission is to reward their shareholders.

The facts regarding how our capitalist system creates severe income inequality are well known.  For example, consider CEO compensation hundreds of times greater than wages paid to the workers in the same companies.

The nations of Northern Europe, by contrast, have created economies that have enhanced their power and distributed wealth more equitably. In the Nordic countries, the world’s highest levels of unionization have not led to a decline in competitiveness but rather to highly trained work forces and major trade surpluses. In Germany, corporations are required to give workers a role in key decisions, and shareholders play a minor role in businesses’ funding and calculations. In consequence, the nation’s manufacturing sector is continually upgraded and the nation’s apprenticeship programs set the standard for developing skilled workers. Median compensation in manufacturing is a third again higher than it is in the United States — yet, counter to the wage-cutting conventional wisdom in American boardrooms and economics classrooms, Germany is No. 1 in trade and the United States is No. 193.

This is one more set of facts that will be ignored or vilified by Republicans as they create an environment hostile to unions, devoid of regulatory safeguards, and punitive toward the neediest of our citizens.  

Think of the 50 United States of Kansas, toto.

There are centrist Republicans - it just takes a conservative-driven economic disaster to bring them out

The ultraconservative policies of Kansas Gov. Brownback have almost destroyed the state.  Now the Republican moderates are in revolt and backing his Democratic challenger.  There are two surprises here: that there are any Republican moderates in Kansas, and that any of them have the gumption to stand against the crazy economic idea that killing off your revenue would somehow lead to economic nirvana.  Here's a recap from Greg Sargent at the Washington Post.

Short takes

Kansas cuts taxes, California increases taxes.  Guess which state is doing well?

Cartoon for today -- your choice:  R's are crazy or completely nuts.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Election 2014: Ducey, Conservative Ice Cream Guy

From azcentral.com.  Meet Dicey Ducey, candidate for Governor, who brings limited public service experience and questionable business history to his campaign.  But some R's will vote for him anyway.  How can he go wrong?  He has Cathi Herrod on his side - which is almost as good as God.

Tribal reaction to Central American children: America's great regression

America blew it.  We had a chance to show the humanitarian side of our country and we failed.  Remember? "Give me your tired, your poor, ... Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door."  Well, we are not practicing what Lady Liberty preaches.

Want to know how far we’ve sunk? Here’s how far: There was never any chance at all that we would handle the crisis of thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children running for their lives and arriving at our border with any maturity or grace at all. There was never a chance we’d take them in, get them fed and settled, and then consider sensibly how we can address the immigration-emigration mess on both sides of our border—and on our border—while working to send the kids safely home.
Instead we got the usual circus, the usual call to send in the troops, lock down the border, impeach the president—because, well, why not?—and under no circumstances to consider the comprehensive immigration reform bill languishing in the House. And now, at last, we have arrived at the inevitable sub-basement level of the debate. Now the nativists and xenophobes have played their nastiest—and least surprising—card: the border must be secured and the immigrants sent back because they are, of course, diseased.

Read the rest of the article at Time.com.  h/t Michele Manos

And then think about how to reduce the cognitive dissonance between Lady Liberty's promise and our American action. The House of Representatives could take up the stalled comprehensive immigration bill.  Congress could authorize the funds the President requested to manage the Central American refugees.  We could adopt rationale policies to support economic development in their home countries.  Or we could admit that we never meant those words on the Statue of Liberty and just hide them by draping the statue in a funereal shroud.

Watch videos of candidaates for Superintendent of Public Instruction debating education issues

PBS Arizona Horizon hosted two debates, one for the two Democratic candidates, David Garcia and Sharon Thomas, and one for the two Republicans, Diane Douglas and John Huppenthal.

Watch the Democratic debate here.

Watch the Republican debate here.  (The Republicans continue to offer strange choices to the voters - a disgraced incumbent vs. a one-issue Tea Party challenger.)

CD1 Republican candidate Kwasman looks silly on national news

Kwasman didn't just look silly - he was savaged by the state and national media.

This guy got a lot of press, not just locally, but nationally.  The bad thing is that once again AZ is the laughing stock of the nation.  The good thing is that it is bad press for Kwasman. Here is a small sample of headlines and snippets.

CBS News: "Arizona protesters mistake busload of YMCA campers for immigrant children" 

Arizona Rep. Adam Kwasman was among those who thought that the bus of YMCA campers was full of migrant children, tweeting: "Bus coming in. This is not compassion. This is the abrogation of the rule of law."

Mother Jones: "GOP Congressional Candidate Mistakes YMCA Campers for Migrant Kids"

Arizona congressional candidate Adam Kwasman was at a protest of a new shelter for migrant children when he got word that a busload of kids was headed in the protesters' direction. Kwasman, a Republican state lawmaker, raced toward the small yellow school bus. He gave a breathless account of what he saw to a local news crew: "I was able to actually see some of the children in the buses, and the fear on their faces. This is not compassion."

What fear?  USA Today: "Ariz. politician mistakes campers for migrant children"

KPNX-TV reporter Will Pitts, who was at the protest scene, says he saw the children laughing and taking pictures of the media.

It gets worse.  PoliticsUSA.Com: "Arizona Republican Idiotically Assumes YMCA Campers On Bus Are Migrant Children"

A lot worse.  Emptywheel.net: "Meet Adam Kwasman, Arizona’s Racist Bigot Politician of the Month"

But not so much worse for AZ as for Kwasman.  And this is an example of how this moron will represent AZ?  On second thought,  it could get a lot worse for AZ.  We could  elect this guy.

U.S. policies implicated in "mass escape" from Central America

GV News In My View: If we really want to "secure the border" the U. S. needs to begin by understanding the effects its intervention has had on those countries.

In America one man earns more than a city of 100,000

Bob Lord, writing in Blog for Arizona, reports on how one hedge fund manager earns $3.5 billion and after (almost no) taxes, earns more than the entire income of my home town, Fargo, ND, or the state capitol of Michigan, Lansing.

That’s right, Lansing. The 100 million hours you put into all of the classes you teach, the fires you fight, the cavities you fill, the restaurant meals you prepare and serve, the cars you repair, the drains you unclog, the illnesses you treat, the crimes you stop, and the lives you save are assigned a total monetary value equal to the work of just one man.

And that is just income - not counting interest and dividends.

... when a society equates the work of one man and the residents of an entire city, has that society lost its way? And when that society taxes the income he could never spend at roughly the same rate it taxes the income on which the people of an entire city depend to feed and clothe their families, has that society gone mad?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A tale of two cities: Different responses to Central American refugee kids

Actually, as of yesterday, it is three cities.  Murrieta (CA) showed one face of America and Nogales (AZ) showed a different face.  Yesterday, Oracle (AZ) lined up with Murrieta (see next post on the Deb-acle in Or-acle).  Nogales had a different reaction which is the good news for today.  See this Editorial in the GV News.

The Debacle in Oracle: Pinal Sheriff stirs up protesters (for political profit?)

Perhaps Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu thought he could gain political advantage by wading into the immigration issue, and replicatding Murrieta (CA) in Oracle (AZ).  Actually, what he did was stir up a hornet's nest of negative editorial opinion and give AZ yet one more black eye.

From Tucson.com (aka AZ Daily Star):

[Photo:] Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeau addresses immigration protesters [and lots of microphones and cameras] on Tuesday, July 15, 2014 in Oracle, Ariz. 
Babeu is credited with stirring up the anti-immigrant protesters via social media postings and a press release Monday and by leaking information about the migrants coming to a local activist.

EJ Montini at azcentral has some choice things to say about the sheriff and what he can take credit for.

The [resulting] rallies demonstrated the deep divide of the immigration debate. One group waved American flags, held signs that read "Return to Sender" and "Go home non-Yankees" and said they would block a bus that was supposed to arrive with immigrant children aboard. A few miles up the road, pro-immigrant supporters held welcome signs with drawings of hearts. The dueling groups each had about 50 people.

Even more telling is Tim Steller's column in the AZ Daily Star this morning.

You don’t have to concern yourself with Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu‘s personal life to grasp that he has a love-hate relationship with illegal immigrants.
Babeu, as you may know, has made a national name for himself over the last four years by taking a hard line against border insecurity and illegal immigration.
What’s less well-understood is that border crises are the lifeblood of Babeu’s political career. Without them, his hopes for the next, bigger office wither.
After he announced the protest, and even after protesters declared their plans to block the buses from going up Mount Lemmon Road to the academy, Babeu presented himself as the law-and-order man who would keep the peace. He handed protesters fliers on the Constitution Tuesday morning. He acted as if he was simply responding to the protests when he was actually their creator.

The machinations and grandstanding by Babeu was exposed by the Editorial Board of The Republic:

Hoping to orchestrate Arizona's own version of the raucous anti-immigrant protests at Murrieta, Calif., Babeu instead orchestrated a gauntlet of terror for 40 or 60 kids en route to a day of ping pong and basketball at the YMCA Triangle Y Camp.
But wait. Babeu's manipulative grandstanding is worse than you may think.
As dozens of protesters rolled up onto the scene on the Mt. Lemmon highway, Babeu had the astonishing temerity to declare he was there to serve as "peacemaker."
Think of the pyromaniac who torches his own house, then throws himself on the mercy of the court as a homeless waif. According to one protest organizer, Babeu told her "the only way to stop this was for our community and the area to organize."
And so he did, effectively, organize and manipulate the incident. Then he sent out a host of Pinal County deputies to maintain some semblance of the peace he single-handedly threatened. That's gall.
Regardless where people stand on the federal policies responsible for this tragic march of Central American children to the U.S. border, taking out political frustrations on these kids is just cruel.
But it a higher order of cruelty — and carelessness — for a peace officer to use his elected office to play on anger and fear.

If I were an advisor to the GOP, I would tell them to run, not walk, from this guy.  But I will bet the candidates who Babeu has endorsed will lay low and accept his support.  That would say a lot about the cruel, manipulative heartlessness at the core of the GOP.

Now which of our Democratic politicians will stake out a morally higher ground and denounce Babeu and his tactics?

How the media gets it wrong: The false leigitimacy of false equivalence

Katrina vanden Heuvel writing in the Washington Post takes mainstream media to task for distorted reporting on major issues like climate change.

... when reporting on the 2013 United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fifth assessment report, mainstream outlets like the Wall Street Journal and The Post gave, on average, the three percent of doubters “over five times the amount of representation [they have] in the scientific community.” The result, as Bill McKibben has said, is “a massive failure of journalism to communicate the idea to the public that the most dangerous thing that ever happened in the world is in the process of happening.” 

So why does the media fall into this trap? False equivalence is defined as:

... giving equal weight to unsupported or even discredited claims for the sake of appearing impartial ...

So the media bends over backward to create the appearance of neutrality on various issues, and in so doing gives unwarranted weight to one side - even to the point of substituting fiction for fact.  But there may be hope.  vanden Heuvel notes the recent BBC call for increased exercise of editorial judgment.

Ultimately, forcing balance where there is none is not journalistically ethical. It’s not part of the proud and essential tradition of truth telling and evaluation, either. At best, it’s lazy. At worst, it’s an abdication of the media’s responsibility.
Rather than uncritically repeating talking points, isn’t it time for the media to take the BBC’s bold advice and exercise editorial judgment? Because if the scale tips in favor of the truth, that’s not imbalanced reporting. That’s journalism.

Why conservative and liberals think differently

Of course.  We knew it all along.  But recent psychological research suggests that the reasons for different thought patterns are not what we knew all along after all.  

A large body of political scientists and political psychologists now concur that liberals and conservatives disagree about politics in part because they are different people at the level of personality, psychology, and even traits like physiology and genetics.

Despite the optimism in this Mother Jones piece, the differences may be so psychologically deep that changing political minds may be very difficult.

... we still operate in politics and in media as if minds can be changed by the best honed arguments, the most compelling facts. And yet if our political opponents are simply perceiving the world differently, that idea starts to crumble. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

America is getting better at something: being cruel to children

Think about it.  A child comes here to escape ... rape?  murder? ... in, say, Honduras.  (No exaggeration. See the report on the pipeline.)  The children are faced with screaming crowds - Murrieta, CA and now Oracle, AZ?  America does not want the kids in our back yard.  What America wants to do is to ship the kid back to that fate as soon as possible.  

EJ Montini notes that our two Senators are involved in legislation to make it easier for us to do exactly that. 

Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, along with Rep. Matt Salmon, all are preparing legislation to amend a 2008 law in order to make it easier for the United States to ship unaccompanied immigrant children back to places like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

But there is no "us" here.  You don't have to tell the kid s/he is going back to a hell hole.  I don't have to do it.  Even our legislators don't have to to it.  The only "we" here is that "we" have other people to do it.

Montini again:

You and I don't have to take these Central American children by the hand and walk them across the border. We don't have to look them in the eyes when we send them back. We don't have to follow up on what happens to them when they arrive "home." These aren't situations we have to face.
It's not easy for us to be cruel to children, but we're getting better at it.
Because we have people who do it for us.

Laurie Roberts writes: "Somehow, I really did think we were better than this."  

P. S. For deep background on the impending debacle in Oracle evidently engineered by Babeu, see this piece by Stephen Lemons in the Phoenix New Times.)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Right-wing physician turned Congressman claims refugees are disease vectors: maybe he skipped a course in med school?

Take a guess as to which doctors' organization Rep. Phil Gingrey belongs?  If you said Association of American Physicians and Surgeons you win the prize.  That's the group pushing the nonsense that refugee kids are carrying horrendous diseases.  

Gingrey has long-standing ties to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a far-right medical group that opposes all mandatory vaccines. The organization touts access to Gingrey as one of its membership perks. (The AAPS has, incidentally, taken the lead in pushing the idea that migrant children are disease carriers.) In 2007, he wrote an amendment that would allow parents to block their children from receiving HPV vaccines, which are designed to combat cervical cancer.

I debunked the dengue fever claim on this blog yesterday.  The Mother Jones report, quoted above,  provides evidence that (1) Ebola is unlikely here, and (2) the refugee children are more likely than American children to have had routine vaccinations against measles.  So, I've got to conclude that Gingrey and AAPS are pushing all this for reasons of ideology and not medicine.  

When politics trumps medical science, I have to believe that those taking the  Hippocratic Oath are hypocritical.

What if the border with Mexico was really sealed?

We know that is not possible - all it takes is one migrant to prove it to be not sealed.  But The Republic asked the question as a stimulus.  Here is one answer in the form of the many other questions that question prompts. (Quoted from the azcentral story.)

What if Arizona lost more than 110,000 jobs?

What if Arizona denied itself about $6 billion a year in exports to Mexico?

What if companies that rely on a Mexico supply chain decided to no longer do business in or through Arizona? Ergo, what if Ford, Raytheon, Apple Computers, Otis Elevators, Chamberlain Garage Doors, Master Lock and countless others said "see you later, Arizona"?

What if retailers in Maricopa County and Pima County decided they didn't really need the 23 million-plus northbound shopping visits made by Mexicans each year? What if they laid off a percentage of their workforce or shuttered numerous stores because sales dropped so much?

What if Arizona's lettuce and vegetable growers were unable to procure day-labor, and the town of Yuma blew into the desert like a tumbleweed?

What if the ability for Mexico to ship produce through Arizona dried up overnight, turning Nogales into a ghost-town overnight?

What if Arizona's strong cattle industry lost a vibrant trading partner?

What if Arizona's multi-national mining industry couldn't send equipment and raw materials across the border?

(Questions from Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas in Nogales, Ariz.)

Will we see movement on infrastructure when highway trust fund goes broke?

Greg Sargent writing in the Washington Post notes that the anti-government types are going to have to face reality.  The dispute between Democrats and Republicans over raising revenue "is going to come down to whether Republicans are willing to spend more money on the country’s infrastructure and future. And saying No will be politically hard to do."  A lot of jobs in red states are at stake.

See Sargent's column for other topics: Elizabeth Warren on campaign trail, how Republicans want to deport DREAMers, and how Obamacare is working but still plays badly to a public which gets its information from negative media (it plays better when they hear from relatives who have Obamacare!).

Obamacare is too good to fail (unless you are a Republican politician)

Paul Krugman presents data showing success of Obamacare:

... first-year enrollment is above projections. The number of Americans without insurance has dropped sharply. Costs appear to be lower than expected, and more broadly cost control on health seems to be doing remarkably well ..."

But the facts do not survive getting beamed into the alternative universe called the GOP. 

But it’s not just misinformation; the reality doesn’t matter for Christie, or Republicans in general. Just as tax cuts can never fail, programs that help the unlucky can never succeed.

Short takes

Does Congress really want to fix the immigration crisis?  Hahahahahahahaha!

Another black eye for AZ: Public charter school "using wingnut history to promote racism and Christian nationalism"

John Oliver takes on income inequality ...

... and Ezra Klein explains: it's really about wealth inequality.

Pipeline of children: comprehensive report on the refugees

This is gritty stuff, but it should be required reading for everyone.  The report is in 6 parts beginning with this article in the Arizona Republic.  Share widely!