Sunday, August 31, 2014

Young brains need early education ... and AZ needs Fred DuVal

Dallas Morning News (reprinted in the AZ Daily Star) featured a story on the importance of  early childhood education.  Here is an example of what happens to children growing up in an impoverished environment.

... In the 1980s, two researchers named Betty Hart and Todd Risley found 42 families in Kansas willing to be observed for months at a time for several years. The researchers concluded that children in the poor families heard about 30 million fewer words in the first four years of life than those in wealthier families. And follow-up work indicated that there was an education achievement gap that seemed to be associated with the word gap.

Fred DuVal gets it.  From his education plan:  "When children have access to early education, they develop a foundation that paves the way for life- long learning and achievement."  Investing in early childhood education is a first step toward preparing the workforce of the future that AZ so desperately needs.

Fred gets it.  Ducey doesn't.

"Proof Positive Ducey is Pure Scum"

Bob Lord in Blog for Arizona takes Ducey down for letting the accusations about Fred DuVal raising tuition stand without comment.  He notes again that the Republican legislature cut $400 million out of university funding.  But I will admit that his headline is a bit much: I would have dropped "pure".

Cartoons for the week

As usual, some cartoons to start your week courtesy of AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

Takeover in America

Worry about a right-wing takeover?  It won't come from the goofy militias.  The game plan was announced by Lewis Powell in 1971 in the Powell manifesto.  Here is one take on how a takeover plays out.

Following is a quote attributed to a friend of Elizabeth Drew (author of Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon's Downfall).  Referring to the clean-cut guys in Nixon's White House: “If there is a takeover in America,” he said, “it will be done by people wearing conventional suits and using advertising techniques.”

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Holier than thou watch: Mercer calls for Grijalva's excommunication

Be prepared for an even worse general election than the primary.  I keep trying to figure out what excrement the right wing will be slinging and I keep failing.  The reason is that they keep getting worse than I can imagine.  Here is the latest step on their race to the bottom of the political cesspool.  Congressman Raul Grijalva took communion at the funeral service of one of his friends.  For that, his GOP opponent calls for his excommunication.  Grijalva's response is sincere and should be a source of shame for Mercer and her Tea Potty buddies.  But it won't be.  They don't feel shame -- not as the rest of us would understand it.  Check out the rest of the story in this Tucson Weekly report.

"Fitz: The master's scoop on grasshopper Ducey's gubernatorial quest"

This is a great column from editorial cartoonist David Fitzsimmons at the AZ Daily Star on strengths and weaknesses of Dicey Ducey.  Here is a sample.

Strength No. 3: You were the State Treasurer of your sandbox, for goodness sakes! Awesome! (Now I know you had nothing to do with your legislators balancing your state’s books by borrowing $3 billion out of the education budget, but I just got to say that was a class act. That money’s gone like a melted Popsicle in June.)
We hear you’re not going to waste a dime on education. Excellent! Don’t let that stop you from talking about how you love education more than whipped cream straight out of the can.

Did AZ GOP buy a truckload of bulls*#t? Their ad copy comes from somewhere.

No, Laurie Roberts at azcentral did not write that headline.  (I got distracted imagining how I might tweet this one.)  She did point out that the Republican Governors Association ad accusing Fred DuVal of single handedly engineering a massive tuition increase was (I gotta say it my way) BS.  

DuVal was indeed on the Arizona Board of Regents when that body nearly doubled tuition. Left unsaid – in the ad or the press release – is why DuVal and the rest of the Regents raised tuition.
It might have had something to do with the fact that the Arizona Legislature slashed funding to universities by $428 million. That is 50 percent of its per-student funding.
The Republican-dominated Arizona Legislature, that is.
The title of the ad is apt, it seems. It isn't fair.  

But since when has the GOP ever played fair?  (See my post yesterday for more on this one: "DuVal vs. Ducey: the gloves in the Gov race are already off".)

What we don't hear from AZ media: Republicans line up for Barber

Check out this one from Blog for Arizona.

From the Barber campaign press release:

Today more than 100 Southern Arizona Republicans endorsed Ron Barber as the best leader to represent Arizona’s Second Congressional District, including former elected officials, business owners, and veterans. 

Will Dems keep control of the U. S. Senate?

How you answer depends on which forecasters and polls you trust.  The Princeton Election Consortium guesses that there is a better than 70% chance we hang onto the Senate.  Kevin Drum at Mother Jones has a summary.  He observes "PEC has performed well in every election for the past decade."  You can read the technical details in the PEC report here.

Is GOP the party of business?

You will hear a lot of nonsense in the coming 2 months inspired by this common myth, a myth that needs to be debunked.  Tom Danehy in the Tucson Weekly explains. 

I recently stumbled across an academic paper that is stunningly counterintuitive. One of the most widely held beliefs in America—one held by virtually all Republicans and even a fair amount of Democrats—is that the Republican Party is the party better capable of dealing with the economy. This, apparently, is not only false, it’s absolutely, 100 percent false.
"Presidents and the Economy: A Forensic Investigation” by Alan Blinder and Mark Watson of Princeton University deals a death blow to the “common wisdom” that Republicans are better for the economy. Their findings show that, since the late 1940s, the economy has performed better—with more private-sector job creation and higher stock market returns—under Democratic presidents than under Republicans. In fact, over that period, it has grown at a rate almost two percentage points higher under Democrat presidents.
...
During the election of 2012, former President Bill Clinton noted, “Since 1961, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years and Democrats 24 years. In those 52 years, the private economy has produced 66 million private-sector jobs. (The score?) Republicans, 24 million; Democrats, 42 million.” (Fox News tried to fact-check the crap out of that one, but, disappointingly for them, found it to be true.)

These data have been around for a couple of years and reported in other media, but nevertheless, Danehy's column is a good read about this research.  If you enjoy academic papers, here is a link to the article. Just as important as the main finding, the authors tell you what does NOT account for the partisan divide in the data.

Billion dollar prediction for dark money in midterm election

Washington Post reports on trend for dark money over the last decade.  It's a short article with an "eye-popping chart" showing the trend - growing exponentially with no end in sight with a billion dollar estimate for 2014. (h/t Jana Eaton)

Contrary to the WaPo title, it is not that campaign finance reform failed.  Rather, it is that the Supreme Court failed us with the Citizens United ruling.  SCOTUS took advantage of a grid-locked congress and laid off the "fix" onto legislators, many of whom are risk-averse and the rest are in thrall to dark money sources.  SCOTUS sold our representative democracy to the highest secret bidders.

Ebola updates

WHO forecast is "ominous" - NY Times

The World Health Organization warned on Thursday that the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, already the largest outbreak ever recorded, is going to get much worse over the next six months, the shortest window in which it might conceivably be brought under control. By then, the organization said, the virus could infect more than 20,000 people, almost seven times the current number of reported cases.
It is a frightening prospect that requires an urgent infusion of aid from public and private donors around the world. The situation as described by the health agency is so dire and the resources needed so daunting that it is hard to see how they can be supplied anytime soon.

Related reporting from Al Jazeera here.

Ebola continues to spread; first case of Ebola found in Senegal - Al Jazeera report

Ebola drug ZMapp works in monkeys - effect on humans unknown

In the study, all 18 monkeys exposed to a lethal dose of Ebola virus survived when given the drug, known as ZMapp, even when the treatment was started five days after infection, when the animals were already sick.
Moreover, the monkeys’ symptoms, such as excessive bleeding, rashes and signs of liver toxicity, eventually disappeared. By contrast, all three monkeys in the control group died.

That's good news - now the question is whether it is efficacious in people.

Friday, August 29, 2014

DuVal vs. Ducey: The gloves are off in the Governor race

Columnist Stephen Lemons at Phoenix New Times reviews the primary results and offers advice to Democratic candidate Fred DuVal on how to deal with his Republican opponent, Doug "Dicey" Ducey.

DuVal will need to shed his bland, happy-go-lucky image and make like a UFC champ on steroids if he wants to survive the Republican pummeling that's already begun.
Ducey and his proxies, like Arizona Republican Party Chairman Robert Graham are painting DuVal as a liberal tax-and-spend lobbyist with a weak résumé.
To this end, the Republican Governor's Association has begun airing TV ads dissing DuVal.

The RGA is airing an add blaming DuVal for single handedly causing a huge increase in tuition at UofA during his tenure on the Board of Regents.  What the ad does not say, and the GOP does not want the public to recall, is that the state legislature cut the hell out of state support to higher ed.  AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona reviewed the data.  For succinctness, I will summarize using my two prior states, North Dakota and Texas, as reference points.

During 2008-2013, ND actually increased higher ed funding by 16.5%, TX decreased its funding by 22.7%, and AZ decreased by a whopping 50.4%. (Data are adjusted for inflation and expressed as funding per student.)  It then should surprise no one that higher education in the states reacted to compensate by way of tuition increases.  Tuition rose in all three mentioned states: ND by 9.3%, TX by 17.8%, and AZ by 78.4%.  

Although the data are recent, the trends in state funding and tuition amounts, and the underlying dynamics, are not.  In the mid-1990s, I chaired a statewide committee in ND that looked at some of these trends and it was clear that the historical commitment to state funding of higher ed was eroding, and not just in  ND.  The reaction by universities was to pare back wherever they could and then raise tuition.  Therefore, in my view, the RGA charge that just one individual was responsible for one instance of a long-term national trend is completely unwarranted.  The much-needed and very public push back needs to explain the contribution of funding cuts  by the legislature to tuition increases.

One approach, taken by AZBlueMeanie, reminds us, and the legislature, of "its constitutionally prescribed duties under Ariz. Const. Art. 11, Sec. 6: “The university and all other state educational institutions shall be open to students of both sexes, and the instruction furnished shall be as nearly free as possible“; and under Ariz. Const. Art. 11, Sec. 10: “[T]he legislature shall make such appropriations, to be met by taxation, as shall insure the proper maintenance of all state educational institutions, and shall make such special appropriations as shall provide for their development and improvement.”  Court rulings aside, it is hard to see how the legislature has lived up to its obligations.  Its avoidance of proper revenue (taxation and appropriations) has denied its educational institutions "proper maintenance."

Another push back comes from a Republican business woman who served with Fred DuVal on the Board of Regents (requoted from AZBlueMeanie's post):

Anne Mariucci, a Republican business leader and former member of the Arizona Board of Regents, today responded to the Republican Governors Association ad attacking Fred DuVal.
“I’m a Republican and I need to correct the record about this highly inaccurate political attack on Fred DuVal,” said Mariucci. “I worked by Fred’s side to save our public universities when the Arizona legislature decimated higher education during the Great Recession. They cut our public universities deeper than any state in the country, forcing tuition increases on Arizona students.
“Fred DuVal actually kept the doors of education open to students from working and middle class families by increasing financial aid for students, developing more partnerships between community colleges and universities, and developing new campuses in rural Arizona.”
“Fred and I personally developed the formula requiring the universities to reduce costs before raising tuition, and Fred was always the loudest voice in the room to protect students from unnecessary tuition hikes. To cast him in any other light is just wrong.”

Yet another way of dealing with this is to take on Dicey Ducey's proclaimed policies regarding revenue and expenditures.  He wants to kill the income tax and still properly fund UofA.  But he has no reconciliation of these two incompatible goals.  On this and his other policies, Ducey is Dicey.  Lemons sums it up with advice to DuVal and his campaign:

DuVal must respond in kind, exploiting Ducey's shortcomings, both personal and political. Go on the offensive and stay on the offensive.

Ducey as Governor would take AZ on the same slippery financial slope as a dish of his ice cream on an Arizona day.  Last night, at the "Fredquarters" rally in Tucson, Fred gave a ferociously good speech on what he is about and how his policies are vastly superior to those of Ducey.  Lemons is right.  That message needs to be in front of the voters every day until November 4th.

Huppenthal outed and out: Democrat David Garcia faces Republican Dianne Douglas in race for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Superintendent of Private Instruction, John Huppenthal, lost big to a Tea Party challenger.  David Garcia won the Democratic primary over Sharon Thomas.  Following are notes from Stephen Lemons at Phoenix New Times.

Former Democratic Congressional candidate Bob Lord deserves the lion's share of the credit for Huppenthal's downfall. Lord and his co-scribes at Blog for Arizona did the detective work that outed Huppenthal and led to his devastating 16-point defeat by political nobody Diane Douglas, whose sole issue is her fervent opposition to Common Core education standards.
...
Hupp's poor handling of the scandal, and his show of shame, real or not, elevated the story, making it front page news locally and fodder for national outlets. The superintendent never recovered.

Remember that the victor in that race, Dianne Douglas, is on record as saying (to Dan Shearer of the Green Valley News) that public education in AZ has enough money and does not need more.  This is a shocking statement from someone who aspires to be the voice of public education in Phoenix.  Douglas' one issue is Common Core - which she misrepresents.  She is completely unqualified for this office.

David Garcia, the Democrat's nominee to replace Huppenthal, is a well-spoken Army vet with a Ph.D. in education. He will paint Douglas as a nutty, über-right conspiracy theorist, which actually is quite accurate. The race is his to lose.

Message to ex-gaming commissioner and AG candidate Brnovich: It's no game

To make the point, here are a couple of snippets from Stephen Lemons' very good column in the Phoenix New Times.

Brnovich now faces Democrat Felecia Rotellini in the general. A true warrior queen, Rotellini has loads of name ID, a kitty of about $1 million (she had no primary challenger), and a demonstrated ability to peel off Republican votes. Both she and Brnovich are running traditional.
In Brnovich, anti-Horne Republicans had an ex-appointee of Governor Jan Brewer, and a political scion of the Goldwater Institute, backed by conservative GOPers like County Attorney Bill Montgomery and former U.S. Senator Jon Kyl.

Remember that this is the guy who could not answer Dan Shearer's questions in an interview with the Green Valley News.  In this primary, the Republicans chose clueless over crooked.  Let's help our warrior queen win the race for AG.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ezra Klein's 9 things to know about this election ...

... but you may not want to know them. Here are some anyway.

The bad news is that Dems are not likely to make significant gains in, let alone take control of, the US House.  The worse news is that Dems are likely to lose the Senate (albeit not by much and maybe temporarily until 2016).  Add to this the composition of voters: old white Republicans are ones most likely to vote and they do not like Obama.  You cannot fix any of that.

Here is what you can do and why.

This is Klein's point #9: "Local elections are really important"

The biggest bias in election coverage isn't towards Republicans or Democrats or even towards conflict and sensationalism. It's towards national elections rather than local elections. This is partly a question of resources: it's a lot easier for a news organization to cover national politics than local politics. And part of it is that the media covers elections as the culmination of the bloodsport of American politics, and local elections don't really count towards that.
But insofar as elections are about making and changing the laws that affect people's lives, local (and state) elections are wildly underemphasized. The major decisions around infrastructure, education, and criminal justice policy are made at the state level. The decisions around zoning, occupational licensing, and the management of many public services are made at the local level. For most Americans, these decisions will be as or more consequential than anything the federal government does.
Moreover, turnout is so low in state and local elections, and people have so little information, that individual voters are much more powerful at the state and local level than they are at the federal level. This November, hundreds of cities will be choosing new mayors and new city councilmen — and that's to say nothing of superintendents, county executives, comptrollers, and all the rest. These elections matter, but national political parties and the national media devote a whole lot less time and resources into making people feel like they matter. So while you're obsessively tracking the national polls in September and October, take some time out to learn about who's running for what in your city.

So let's empower each other at the state and local level - vote and get your fellow Dems on their feet to do likewise.  We have a Democratic Dream Team.  If we vote, we win.

Pima County Democratic Party reacts to the primary election

Here is part of a press release by PCDP.

PCDP Pleased with Primary Results, General Election Matchups

The race to November is on and the Pima County Democratic Party plans to set the pace this fall. After Arizona voters made their choices in Tuesday’s primary elections we know who will be appearing on the general election ballot.

"With a 'Dream Team' of Fred DuVal, Terry Goddard, Felecia Rotellini and David Garcia the Democrats offer an impressive slate of highly qualified candidates," said Pima County Democratic Party Chair Don Jorgensen. "We like our matchups this go-around."

Governor: Fred DuVal v. former ice cream vendor and "dark money" darling Doug Ducey. Arizona has already had one Republican Chief Executive who showed questionable business judgement; we don't need a second Symington.  We also don't want someone who promised to find "acceptable language" that would let the Republican fringe revive the religious discrimination bill SB1062.

Secretary of State: Terry Goddard v. Michelle Reagan, a formerly pro-choice public servant who once earned high marks from Planned Parenthood before trading her principles to become a professional Republican. The former State Senator who wants to be Secretary of State was the author of HB 2305, a voter suppression bill so awful Republicans repealed it rather than let the people reject it with a ballot initiative.

Attorney General: Felecia Rotellini v. Tea Party favorite Mark Brnovich. A lack of experience as a litigator all but disqualifies him in practical terms to serve as Attorney General. Brnovich, who took down a depleted and damaged Tom Horne, has promised to continue Horne's practices of filing costly litigation to defend the Arizona Legislature's patently unconstitutional laws and fighting the federal government as part of an out-of-touch Right Wing agenda.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: David Garcia v. Diane Douglas. An East Coast transplant, Douglas is a one-issue candidate whose views about the Common Core education standards are only the tip of a massive iceberg of Right Wing conspiracy theories. Republican voters didn't have much choice Tuesday given that her foe was scandal-magnet John Huppenthal.

Message to business leaders about Dicey Ducey

It's no longer a joke.  The wrong wing/right wing of your party has blessed this guy and that which he stands for.  And now, if he does win the Governor's race, we can relive all the horrors of 1070 and 1062 and cuts to education and more uninsured.  He will tip AZ from 49th to 50th.  

Here are 10 more reasons for you not to buy Dicey's ice cream pitch (Pamela Powers Hannley at Blog for Arizona).

Donna Gratehouse at Blog for Arizona has the rest of the message - sample printed here.

What are you going to do about Doug Ducey? He’s radically anti-choice and anti-gay rights, and militantly anti-immigrant. He also wants to repeal the Medicaid law and abolish the state income tax. He has a close relationship Cathi Herrod, who promises to be even more of a fixture at the legislature with no Chuck Coughlin in the Governor’s office to keep her somewhat at bay. Ducey is kicking off the general campaign with an event starring Sarah Palin and Dinesh D’Souza, who is one of the most terrible people in the world. If you aren’t lining up to give Fred DuVal enthusiastic support and piles of money right now, then I don’t want to hear you whine about how lousy things are under Governor Ducey. I’m looking straight at you, Craig Barrett, when I say this. I’m looking at you, various and sundry Chambers of Commerce. You too, lobbyists.

Trust me, business leaders; Dicey might be good for business after all.  Putting more crazy into AZ will get you loads of free advertising on Comedy Central.

McConnell plans for another government shutdown ... or two or three

Mitch was caught on tape making such noise to a Koch brothers conclave in June.  Here are three reports from The Nation, Talking Points Memo, and the NY Times.  Take your pick.

How bloggers helped Huppenthal ...

... lose!  The story of how Hupp's anonymous comments ("lazy pigs") were traced to him is recounted by David Safier writing in the Tucson Weekly.  The zealous research on this one was done by Bob Lord at Blog for Arizona, but other blogs, both on the left and on the right, swapped information to expose Hupp.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

AZ primary results: What voters wanted vs. what voters got

Joanna Allhands at azcentral has an interesting take on the election.  The AZ Republic ran a quiz on their website asking voters about what they wanted to hear about in the election.  Education and the economy were the top two vote getters.  Did the voters get what they wanted?  Well, it depends on what you think they really wanted.

If the quiz and exit interviews are correct, most voters never got the information they wanted in this election.
Oh, and as for the candidates that most closely matched our quiz-takers' views?
Scott Smith: 30.6 percent,  Fred DuVal: 27.3 percent, [...] Doug Ducey: 9.8 percent

According to Allhands, if the voters' issues were really in play, we should be looking forward to a serious discussion of issues between DuVal and Smith.  But Smith lost big to Dicey "no-income-tax" Ducey.  Watch the dark money machine go nuts.

On the education side, David Garcia (D) will face Dianne Douglas (R).  Douglas thinks current education funding is just fine, thank you.  Should she win in November, she will be loved by those legislators who favor more cuts to public education.  But then consider this:  she was running against John "lazy pigs" Huppenthal - the midnight blogger.

Over on the Attorney General side, Felecia Rotellini (D) will face Mark Brnovich (R).  He's the guy who bombed the interview with GV News and drew the conclusion that he had no clue about issues facing the AG.  But than what was a poor Republican voter to do:  the guy who has no clue vs. the guy in legal doo-doo up to his ears.  

For Secretary of State, dark money (Justin Pierce) lost to voter suppression (Michelle Reagan).

And for Corporation Commission, the two candidates supported by a dark money group won the GOP nod.  Scriber thinks a certain public utility is orgasmic about this one .... unless the Goldwater Institute forces some truth-telling.

You shall know a candidate by the company s/he keeps

The original version of the headline was about the computational analysis of semantics but it applies equally well to political candidates.  The subject here is a gem from Pamela Powers Hannley at Blog for Arizona (quoting from a press release from Progress Now Arizona).  Check out the AZ state-wide candidates hob-nobbing with Bundy and his militia buddies.

PHOENIX – Outlaw Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his armed posse hobnobbed with numerous Arizona Republican political candidates last weekend at the70th annual Mohave County Republican Party Picnic.
Stumping politicians who attended the Aug. 16 picnic along with Bundy included: Gubernatorial candidates Treasurer Doug Ducey, Christine Jones and Secretary of State Ken Bennett; Secretary of State candidate Michelle Reagan; Attorney General candidate Mark Brnovich; Treasurer candidates Jeff DeWitt and Randy Pullen; and Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Diane Douglas.
Bundy made national and international headlines in April over his tense standoff with local sheriff’s deputies and federal land management officials during which his followers trained guns on law enforcement officers and media. Two of Bundy’s more extreme followers, Jerad and Amanda Miller, later murdered two Nevada police officers in an attempt to incite revolution against the government.

So, make a list of what these candidates have in common and draw your own conclusions about them.  Then make a commitment right now to vote, and vote by early ballot.

Note added Wednesday AM: Candidates with names printed in bold won their respective GOP primaries.

Follow-up the morning after:  On its front page the AZ Daily Star shows a photo of GOP primary winner Dicey Ducey being applauded by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  As I said, you shall know Dicey by the company he keeps.

Morning FYI: Can you solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Probably not, but you could try.  Here is how.  I just ran into this article in Mother Jones about the PeaceMaker game.  It sounds interesting and informative.  But it also may result in a bruised head and a dented wall.  FYI: PeaceMaker 2.0 is updated to reflect recent events in the conflict and is due out by the end of the year.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Message to President Obama: Go for broke on immigration - and on everything else

Linda Valdez at AZ Republic is my new favorite columnist.  She has it exactly right - in the sense of moral correctness - about why Obama should ignore the tooth-gnashing right and get to work on the agenda approved by his elections.

Does anyone really think that the Tea Potty will let the GOP pass any reasonable legislation while this (gasp!) black guy named Hussein is in office?  Look at the numbers - they've used every ploy to defeat his proposals, and have used every lie to appeal to the most base fears of the electorate.

Mr. President, in the words of John Dean, you have a cancer growing on your presidency:  your own trust in a failed system.  If you want to do the right thing, you have to rise above the shackles imposed by that system that are being used to cripple the country.  You can't lose the Republican's congressional support - you never had it.

That was the Scriber's version.  Here is Valdez:

Go big. Go bold. Use your executive power to shake up the political world.
You've got nothing to lose and a whole lot of energy to gain from the disillusioned masses who put you in office. Twice.
People didn't elect you to tiptoe. They wanted you to walk on water. Get your feet wet.
...
First, show the intestinal fortitude to say it is flat out wrong to leave long-time, hard-working de facto American families in limbo.
Second, stop the obscene rush to deport women and children from Central America who fled violence to seek America's promise. They are refugees. They face murder and rape at home.

So, Mr. President, if not you, then who?  If not now, then when?

Take the monkey-in-the-office challenge

Here is the quote/video/challenge of the day

The quote is from Talking Points Memo

"Every 15 to 30 minutes, they come in and wind me up and I do my thing," Boehner says in the video.

The video of Boehner is in the TPM article here.

The challenge?  Did you spot the monkey in the office?

More on our fiscal priorities: What "fiscal conservatives" are spending on the lawsuit against Obama

You might think that fiscal conservatives in Congress would eschew silly spending.  On the other hand, given the track record, you would be justified in thinking otherwise.  Talking Points Memo reports on the cost of the lawsuit and Democrats'  reactions to it.

House Republicans will spend $500 per hour on their lawsuit against President Barack Obama, with a "firm cap" of $350,000.
...
Democrats quickly cast doubt on the $350,000 cap. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) pointed out that the House GOP ended up spending some $2.3 million to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court despite initially setting that cap at $500,000. She called it a waste of time and taxpayer money.
"We finally know that Republicans have handed a $500-an-hour, no-bid contract to a Washington law firm for a lawsuit that lays the groundwork for impeachment and rallies the most extreme elements of the Republican Party," she said. "Americans are tired of election-year stunts. They deserve leaders in Washington who will work to build an economy that works for everyone, not line the pockets of wealthy Washington lawyers and other special interests."

Take this as a preview of the utter stupidity to come from the GOP in the next two years.

America's fiscal priorities: Investing in wealth inequality

Here's an analysis by Paul Buchheit writing on alternet.org showing the fiscal priorities of America.  As a preview: "... $2.2 trillion in tax expenditures, tax underpayments, tax havens, and corporate nonpayment. It is estimated that two-thirds of tax breaks accrue to the top quintile of taxpayers."  Check out the article for the rest of the numbers revealing America's priorities.

Delays in judicial confirmations prove Republican obstructionism

We all know that, right?  But sometimes it is good to know why we know what we know.  

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones reports on a study of number of days that judicial nominees were held on the Senate calendar.  In the term of G. H. W. Bush, the nominees were voted on and approved promptly - a matter of 5 days or less.  The average delays for Clinton and Dubya were close to equal - around 40 days.  But the average for Obama bounced up to over 120 days.  The Reid reform helped but the average is still about 80 days - double that during the Clinton and Bush 2 administrations.  

Here is the really scary part.  If the GOP takes the Senate in 2014, McConnell has already hinted at using a government shutdown again.  If that happens, a GOP Senate majority might be willing to shut down the Senate's constitutional role in the judicial confirmation process as well.

Battery research may revolutionize electrical power

Battery R&D may result in electrical storage capabilities that have an impact rivaling that of refrigeration according to a review of trends in battery research by Al Jazeera.

Here’s something you may not know about electricity: It’s made in real time. Turn on a light switch and generators are producing that electricity in response. There’s no warehouse that stores electricity. As a result, parts of the grid are built to be put in service only a few days of the year when energy use is at its peak, during the hottest days of the year, when air conditioners are blasting. Peaking turbines accommodate this demand. “Literally in America the median peaking turbine is running only 2 percent of the time,” said Giudice. “Can you imagine running a hotel you didn’t keep full except for 2 percent of the time? It’s a very expensive proposition.”
Energy storage — and perhaps the right battery — could change the existing grid. A battery could serve as an energy warehouse, storing electricity during nonpeak hours and then sending it out when people most need it. It would mean no more expensive power plants that work only during peak hours.

That just one potential for changing the grid in ways that would shake up the utilities.  See the full article for more.

Monday, August 25, 2014

For whom the repeal tolls: GOP ding-dongs on Obamacare

From Wikipedia: A "Ring of bells" (or "peal of bells") is a set of bells ... Normal ringing refers to the ringing of a bell or bells at a rate of about one ring per second or more, often in pairs reflecting the traditional "ding-dong" sound of a bell which is rotated back and forth, ringing once in each direction."

When it comes to the GOP's election-year stance on ACA (Obamacare), they act like a bell rotating back and forth ringing in each direction.  They just cannot settle on one direction.  Greg Sargent elaborates in the Morning Plum in the Washington Post.

The larger point here is that commentators are not telling the full story of how the politics of Obamacare are really playing out. The focus is only on “disapproval” of the law and the drag this is having on Democratic candidates. Both of those are very real. But let’s not ignore the struggles GOP candidates are having with the policy specifics of this debate or the political implications of those struggles. Nor should we overlook the limits of their attacks on the law: At this point they are largely attacking the word “Obamacare” while reassuring swing voters they support its general goals, without saying how they would accomplish those goals.
These candidates may well get away with these games and win their races. But those games — which would not be necessary if Obamacare were the uniform political disaster Republicans say it is — are still revealing and important.

Dems: we cannot let them get away with these games.

Running against Obamacare is not helping GOP governors

GOP governors who accepted Medicaid expansion are doing OK in the polls.  GOP Govs who did not accept expansion are polling much worse.  The cause of this difference is more complicated than a single issue, according to Kevin Drum in Mother Jones

... refusing the Medicaid expansion is the mark of a true-believing wingnut, and that's not such a great place to be right now. Conversely, accepting the Medicaid expansion is the mark of a pragmatic conservative, and those folks have remained relatively popular.

We might hope that running against Obamacare will be just as damaging to the wingnuts in the AZ Gov election.

ISIS captures major Syrian air base

From Al Jazeera report: "The ... Tabqa facility ... houses several warplane squadrons, helicopters, tanks, artillery and ammunition bunkers ..."

Ebola update: Two new cases reported by Democratic Republic of Congo

It might indicate a spread to central Africa via travelers or a separate outbreak.  Either way, if verified by WHO, this is bad news. From vox.com.

See also this report from Salon.com including the statistics on the current and past Ebola outbreaks in Africa.

Data on social media reaction to Michael Brown (Ferguson) vs. Trayvon Martin (stand your ground)

See the chart in this story from the Washington Post.

Dan Rather responds to war hawks: "tell me that you are prepared to send your son, your daughter, your grandson, your granddaughter to that war"

I include this article from Talking Points Memo not because I am anti-military or even anti-war.  (Disclosure: I enlisted and extended in US Army in the 60s.)  There is a deeper message than just reacting to the current crop of war hawks.  It is this.  America decided to switch to an all volunteer military thus depriving 99% of its citizenry of any investment in military decisions.  For a long time, I've favored a universal service requirement for all citizens which would provide a lot of skin in a lot of national games, only one of which being military service.  In the absence of such service and the commitment to our country it entails, it is all too easy to carp from the sidelines: not only is war not in my back yard, it is not in my family.  "Let's go to war, but let you and your kids do the fighting and dying" is not an argument that should have any support among truly patriotic Americans.

Dan Rather again: if you are not willing to send your children to war, "I have no patience with you, and don't even talk to me."

How to get Rosemont approved: Follow the lead of Scott Walker and Wisconsin

This is an expose from Nation.com on dark money from the mining company that wants to dig a mine in Wisconsin even bigger than Rosemont.  How did they get the changes in the state mining law?  With a $700,000 donation.  Maybe HudBay can learn from this example of a corrupt GOP administration. It is a must read.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

GV News interview with Diane Douglas on education: "we have plenty of money to do the job"

In the Sunday edition, GV News Editor Dan Shearer writes about Diane Douglas, Republican (Tea Party?) candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction.  Shearer has written about his interviews with various candidates from both parties for statewide offices.  Based on what I know about those candidates, I think he's been fair and accurate.  Any disagreements I've had with what he has written mostly follow from the candidates' views that I do not share.  This one is no exception, although I think his summary statement is off the mark.

If you had to sum up Diane Douglas in one sentence it’s that she fashions herself a myth-buster. And it could be very interesting watching her if she’s elected Superintendent of Public Instruction in November.

Interesting?  No, try tragic.

Here is where the election stands.

She has to get by current Superintendent John Huppenthal in the GOP primary, but recent polling bends in her favor, and he’s got his own problems these days. So it very well could be Douglas vs. Democrat David Garcia in the general.

It turns out that Douglas is not just fiscally conservative - she is anti-education-funding.

So while Douglas says Arizona’s rank as 49th in funding is debatable, she grants that when you look at the dollars actually reaching the classroom, Arizona is “far below” national standards.
But she doesn’t think we need more money.
“Our duty is to provide the best education for our children at the least possible expense to the taxpayers,” she said. “I think we have plenty of money to do the job right (in Arizona).”

So as the Superintendent, she would be more of a hindrance than a help to recouping the money that the lege has squandered on business breaks at the expense of public eduation.  We do not need someone heading public instruction who is willing to accept getting education continually short-changed.  The superintendent is supposed to be advocating for education, not accepting whatever the lege deigns to hand out.

And then she reverts to form to rag on her real one, and only one, issue.

But we’d be far better off without the federal stranglehold delivered through Common Core, she says.

One of the "myths" is that AZ public education ranks at the bottom in per-student funding.  She thinks the numbers here are due to "cherry picking" data.  Perhaps she can cherry-pick her way through the lege by turning down the $317 million owed to education and then declaring that AZ ranks in the top five states.  Now that would be a myth she would have trouble busting.

Update on containing the Ebola outbreak

Al Jazeera reports on how African nations are responding with containment masures - travel restrictions and sealed borders.


Photojournalist views conflects due to escalating poaching in Africa

Here are snippets from the Salon.com interview.

Kate Brooks has long fixed her camera lens on violence.
In her 16 years as a photojournalist, she’s documented conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and Libya. But for the past year, her attention’s been turned to Africa, where a human-versus-animal war is at its breaking point. Organized, aggressive and hugely profitable poaching operations are on the rise, and elephants and rhinos are on the fast track to extinction.
It’s a crisis of international proportions, and the tragedy of the potential loss of entire species is only the beginning. As Hillary Clinton put it last fall when she introduced an $80 million anti-trafficking program: “This is not just about elephants. It is about human beings, governments, trying to control their own territory, trying to keep their people safe, as well as protect their cultural and environmental heritage.” The spoils from the global poaching trade, valued as high as $10 billion a year, moreover, are funding terrorist organizations and criminal syndicates, making it an issue of international security as well.

Right-wing alert: 12-year old warriors invade US

Not so, but the nuttiest of the GOP wants its base to believe it.  Check this one from rightwingwatch.org.  This is what happens when a political party abandons science and medicine and revises the news to fit its ideology.

Cartoons of the week

Start out your week with a jolt of humor - from AzBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Montini's election preview: Rich out-of-staters don't want Fred Duval to be governor

Writing in the Arizona Republic (azcentral), EJ Montini gives us a preview of the ugliness that will be unleashed on the AZ voters on August 27.  Who, you might ask, is waging war on our electorate?  Read on fdor snippets.

The Republican Governors Association have been collecting tons of money for a political action committee called RGA Arizona PAC from individuals who don't want DuVal to become Arizona's next governor and are willing to fund a campaign against him.
Although you have to wonder why, since exactly NONE of these deep-pocket donors is from Arizona.
I've been reading through the committee's campaign report and there are some whopping donations.
Like the $137,844.48 from Richard Hayne from Coatesville, Pa.
And the $11,250 from Dennis Brady of Miami Beach, Fla.
And the $25,000 from John Whitaker of Winston Salem, N.C.
And the tens of thousands from places like St. Charles, Ill., and Fort Worth, Tex., and Detroit, Mich., and Hingham, Maine, and Racine, Wis., and Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Va., and Birmingham, Ala. And on and on.
But from Arizona … nothing.
Ladies and gentlemen, it's about to get ugly.

It's about to make our ugly primary election season look like a church picnic.
RGA Arizona PAC has over $1 million and I'd guess it will use just about all of it to attack DuVal.
And that most likely will be a drop in the bucket compared to the so-called "dark money" that will be used to influence Arizona's elections, for and against both Democrats and Republicans.

Scriber's bet: RGA and the dark money groups are going to invent some whoppers.  DuVal has any other possible GOP candidates beat on the issues, so the attacks will be personal and/or fear mongering.

Why Obamacare causes GOP candidates to implode

Talking Points Memo highlights a contradiction that should be a major stumbling  block for GOP candidates - but probably won't.  They have, amazingly, conned the American public into hating Obamacare while benefitting from and extolling its parts.  Here are a couple of examples.

[Iowa US Senate candidate Joni] Ernst's positions -- repeal Obamacare but protect those on Medicaid -- are difficult to reconcile. About 78,860 Iowans have gained coverage under Medicaid expansion due to federal funds authorized by Obamacare, according to administration figures provided on May 1. If Obamacare is repealed, the federal funds for the new Medicaid beneficiaries would disappear.
The candidate's campaign website says she's "staunchly opposed to the Obamacare law" and "supports immediate action to repeal Obamacare."
Without Obamacare there would have be another source of funding in order to protect coverage for those Iowans. The state of Iowa could theoretically step in and fund the program through state dollars. But that would cost millions and there's no indication the state is prepared to do that. Ernst didn't point to an alternate funding stream she would support in the Times interview.

Of course not.  Here's the second example.

Ernst's remarks reflect the changing national politics of Obamacare as millions of Americans gain insurance coverage under the law. Republicans universally support fully repealing Obamacare but some have had trouble reconciling that with their constituents who are benefiting from it.
Earlier this year, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stumbled on to the same problem after Obamacare cut his state's uninsured rate by some 40 percent. He told reporters that his push to repeal Obamacare was "unconnected" to the future of Kentucky's state-based Obamacare exchange, called Kynect.

Pop quiz! Complete the following sentence.  The GOP wants to de-insure the now-insured and re-insure them with ______.  Your answers can be posted as comments to this blog post.

Witness marine biology becoming oceanic art

No politics, no satire.  Just some stunning videos of the Portuguese man-of-war.

Counterpoint: Complainants respond to criticism of Perry indictment

Politico.com features a response by those who filed the complaint against Texas Gov Rick Perry.  The media has showcased a blitz by Perry and others designed to downplay the seriousness of the charges. Here is some of the story from the other side.

The governor rightly argues that he has absolute authority to veto the Public Integrity Unit’s budget. Texas law does not, however, grant him authority to threaten another public official—even one who behaved as wretchedly as [Travis County Attorney] Lehmberg did. Notably, we filed our criminal complaint before Perry vetoed Public Integrity funding. After all, it was the governor’s threats—not his veto—that broke Texas law prohibiting an official from using the power of his or her office to coerce another official into taking an action, such as resignation.
What’s more, Perry continued to pressure Lehmberg to resign even after the veto. Official sources cited in media accounts confirm that Perry’s representatives continued to try to induce Lehmberg to resign by promising her a high-paying junior position in her office. That behavior is a potential bribery felony in Texas.

Perry may be able to dodge all this, but doing so would not diminish the seriousness of the charges against him.

Read more at politico.com.

Wealth watch: Rich got richer, but poor got poorer - a lot poorer

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones displays a stunning graphic.  From 2000 to 2011, the net worth of the wealthiest 20% in America increased by 11%.  During the same period, the poorest 20% saw their net worth decline by 566%!  Now, so as not to lie with statistics, let me admit that the divisors are vastly different, but that in itself speaks volumes about life in the US.  The poorest 20% started with a net worth of negative $905 in 2000 - basically debt - and ended 2011 even further in debt, net worth of negative $6,029.  The net worth of the wealthiest 20% increased from $569,375 to $639,754.

Another way to look at it:  the average person in the top 20% had a net worth that could have paid the debt of 104 of the poorest families.

Contrasting views of unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America

California (h/t Michele Manos):  “With these bills we’re making it clear California wants unaccompanied immigrant children treated as children. We want their well-being ensured, their best interests pursued, and their safety protected. While no longer in the headlines, the humanitarian crisis that has brought so many children to our country continues. While the root causes of this crisis are being addressed, these victimized children deserve to be treated with kindness and justice.” – Speaker Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego)

Arizona: "Return to sender"

Ice Cream Meltdown graphic from yesterday

If it did not show up in your email, try this link. (But you should see it below-technical issues should be resolved.)


Friday, August 22, 2014

"Judge: Arizona owes public schools more than $300M"

"Judge: AZ owes schools $317,000"

One of these headlines is correct - that one being the title of this post quoted from the online edition of the the AZ Daily Star.  The other headline quoted here, from the Star's print edition this morning, seems to be lacking a few zeros.  We hope that this is a typo and not reflective of the Star's arithmetic understanding.

That aside, this is good news for public education in AZ that has been stiffed by the legislature for years even while the lege (and Gov Brewer) signed off on massive tax breaks designed to attract business to the state. Can anyone point to a new business that found AZ attractive?  Or how about businesses that decide NOT to come here because of our poor education track record?  But I digress.

Here are snippets from the AZ Daily Star/tucson.com report.

Judge Katherine Cooper said it is abundantly clear that voters ordered state aid to schools to be adjusted annually for inflation. And she said the evidence also shows lawmakers ignored that mandate for several years.
... the judge said there is absolutely no reason to delay the immediate adjustment of the inflation formula to what it should have been had the 2000 voter-approved law been followed.

As with all things AZ, there is a downside to this good news.  The state government, Brewer and the lege, is about to do battle against the judge's ruling.  That litigation will likely delay the payment of what the state owes.  

Attorneys for the state argued there still is an open legal question of whether schools should now get the $1.3 billion they should have received in the past but did not. And Cooper has scheduled a hearing for October to hear arguments.

Never mind the fact that the state has the bucks in reserve to make the payment.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, acknowledged that the state does have the estimated $317 million needed right now. There is about $455 million in the state’s “rainy day fund.”
Kavanagh said, though, that the state was looking to use those dollars to help prevent a deficit for the following fiscal year. He said if those funds are gone and the state needs another $320 million for inflation adjustments above what lawmakers had anticipated, that results in an $800 million deficit.

So the problem is that the state chose to spend its money on tax breaks for business instead of education and has now gotten called out on that bad decision.

I would love to hear from our GOP candidates for Governor on this one.  In the meantime, our Democratic candidate, Fred DuVal, has made his position on education funding quite clear - no more cuts.  On this current ruling, his position is also quite clear (from this press release).

Phoenix, AZ -- Business and education leader Fred DuVal, who is running for Arizona governor, today applauded a Maricopa County Superior Court judge’s court order mandating reinvestment in our children’s schools.
“For years, our children’s education has suffered from politicians’ ‘cut-first’ attitude towards their schools,” said DuVal. “Governor Brewer and the Legislature thought they could pull an end-run around the voters, but -- fortunately -- a group of teachers, concerned parents, and school officials fought back.”
“I’m proud to be the only candidate for governor who has called for an end to delays and immediate implementation of this court order, and when I’m governor, I’ll work to make sure our schools get the resources our children need.”

Fred in the statehouse will be a friend of education.  Period.

George Takei (Star Trek's Mr. Sulu) endorses Fred DuVal for Governor

Here is the complete text of the press release.

Phoenix, AZ -- Business and education leader Fred DuVal, who is running for Arizona governor, today announced the endorsement of actor, author, activist, and social media mega-power George Takei.

“I’m incredibly grateful to have the support of an influential and prominent American and part-time Show Low resident like George Takei,” said DuVal. “George has dedicated his life to advancing equality, and together we’ll work to move Arizona Forward.”

“I’m proud to endorse Fred DuVal for Arizona governor because of his passionate support for equal rights for all Arizonans,” said Takei. “And Fred’s not only right on LGBT issues; he’s the right person to improve our schools, create jobs and grow our economy, and move Arizona beyond SB 1070 and SB 1062. I’m fully supporting Fred and will do everything I can to make him our next governor because he’s the only person we can trust to move Arizona forward.”

George Takei will host an event and formally endorse Fred DuVal for Arizona governor on Monday, August 25 at the Saguaro Hotel in Scottsdale.

Obamacare is positive experience for this letter writer

Most of what gets into the media about the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is negative and designed mainly to sow fear and distrust.  We see all too few letters from or about those who have benefited from their enrollment in Obamacare.  

Here is a report from an Arizonan about her positive experience (reported this morning by the AZ Daily Star and at tucson.com).  Here is part of her story.

... we could not have afforded insurance for me and my daughter in an unregulated marketplace. Cigna wanted a crippling, mortgage-sized payment to continue our coverage. If we had to purchase new insurance in an open market, we would surely have been denied coverage because who among us has reached the age of 62 without some sort of pre-existing condition?
I went to the federal marketplace site and within 30 minutes I obtained coverage. The site was easy to navigate and understandable. The coverage I got was equal to or better than the coverage that Cigna was offering me and at less than half the cost.

She concludes:

Do I wish the cost was lower? Yes, I do. Could I have chosen a less comprehensive plan and saved money? Yes, I could have. I would like to think though that my higher premiums are making it possible for someone else less advantaged to have access to health care. If it helps just one mother who needs health insurance for a child, then it’s worth it to me.

She has the last word:

Please, don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

Dicey Ducey's ice cream business meltdown

(See related post with graphic below.)

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Brahm Resnik, 12 News and azcentral.com, report on the latest news about Dicey Ducey's "success" as businessman.  The question here focuses on the health of Dicey's ice cream franchise company, Cold Stone Creamery, before it was sold.  Here are some of the stats and commentary on that company's performance.

Financial statements show that in the years before the sale, Cold Stone's profits were falling even as it was opening stores at a rapid pace.
Documents filed with the California Department of Corporations show Cold Stone's revenue from selling and servicing franchises nationwide more than tripled from 2003 to 2006, to $62 million, while profits plunged 89 percent, to $253,369.
The average annual sales at Cold Stone stores dipped for three straight years, from $391,700 in 2004, to $354,700 in 2007. As stores were quickly opening, others were closing: in 2004, for every 100 stores that opened, three closed. By 2006, the year before the sale, 28 stores closed for every 100 that opened.

If corporations were people, based on this information I'd have to conclude that this corporation/person was a classic case of an over-achiever.  It peaked early and then started to sputter out.  Here's a concurring opinion from an industry expert.

John Gordon, a restaurant-industry analyst and franchise expert from San Diego, reviewed the company's financial disclosures.
"They were declining as early as 2004, which is quite ominous," he said. "While the company was able to establish some early growth, it didn't appear the growth was to be sustained."

So what is Dicey's explanation?

Ducey has blamed the recession,which economists say started in earnest in 2008, for the store closures and the sales dispute.

Sorry, Dicey, but you cannot invert the rules of cause and effect.  Something that started in 2008 cannot be used as a cause of events already unfolding in 2004.

If Cold Stone's performance is a sign of American business success, then God help Arizona if this guy becomes the Governor.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Doug "Dicey" Ducey's latest campaign icon

Well, not really (h/t Jana Eaton).  Given recent disclosures about his dark money support, endorsers, and business "success", you have to appreciate how his opponents might view his campaign.


The worst news of the day: Ferguson tactics applied in Liberia to contain Ebola

I say the worst news, not necessarily because of that effort to contain Ebola.  The news is bad because there seems to be no other effective action as the disease continues to spread.

What does a country do when faced with an outbreak of an incurable and mostly fatal disease?  What does it do when much of its populace is uninformed or misinformed about disease transmission?  What does its government do when the populace has no faith in it?  How can the spread of the disease be prevented when medical personnel and facilities are inadequate?  It appears that there are not many alternatives.  The government of Liberia has created a cordon sanitaire  around a large slum in the capitol city of Monrovia.  Conditions inside the cordon are bad and rapidly getting worse.  Here is the NY Times report.

GOP Gov candidates: Do any of them escape the cuckoo's nest?

Stephen Lemons from Phoenix New Times caught one of the GOP "debates" and dissects each of their positions on just about everything.  It's worth a read to understand the miserable bunch that the GOP has offered its voters.

The GOP Gov wannabes are pretty much in synch on their voodoo economics with Bennett and Dicey Ducey leading the pack with their commitment to eliminate 50% of the state's revenue.  And they all try to out-tough each other on their treatment of  immigration generally and Central America migrants specifically.  In the end, Lemons concludes what others have been saying, namely that Scott Smith is the only one of that group approaching sanity.

However, Smith is nowhere close to having a moment of clarity and switching parties.  Later in the article, Lemons' digs into Smith's campaign statements.

... like his GOP brethren, he was quoted in the e-mail blast talking tough about little kids.
"If you cross into this country illegally," Smith states in the pitch, "you will be removed just as quickly as you got here, no matter who you are."
Additionally, Smith repeated in the e-mail a claim he's made elsewhere, stating that Homeland Security should "use the Expedited Removal Hearings process" to fast-track the deportations of recent arrivals from Central America, including the more than 60,000 unaccompanied minors who have been taken into custody since October 2013.

But, oops, it turns out that expedited removal is not possible, at least now.  Lemons explains:

Immigration-law expert Karen Tumlin, managing attorney of the National Immigration Law Center's Los Angeles office, put it bluntly when I spoke to her about Smith's claims.
"Right now, you cannot use expedited removal on an unaccompanied child [from Central America]," Tumlin said. "Whoever is saying that is wrong."

There is a lot more in Lemons' report, for example, the blurring of church and state that all the candidates seem to have bought into.  (But perhaps that was because the debate was in a fundamentalist church.)

To give an idea of how conservative the North Scottsdale church is, during his sermon, Pastor Friend quotes literature from the right-wing Center for Arizona Policy, calls CAP president Cathi Herrod "my good friend," and inveighs against what he refers to as the "false doctrine of the separation of church and state."
So it's no surprise that the candidates, when given the opportunity to make 15-second statements before Friend's sermon, generally tout their religious affiliations, conservative principles, and family ties.

In short, all these candidates are pitching the same lines to the most conservative of their base. I do  understand Lemons' conclusion that Smith is the only sane one in the bunch, but I wonder if Smith might not be best recast as the least nutty one.

If you want to get caught up on who's who in the GOP Gov primary, this is the article to read.

Robert Reich: The Disease of American Democracy (and why we need power from the people)

Here is Robert Reich's call to action (h/t Jana Eaton).  In the face of political power wielded by the moneyed few, we, the 99%, need to renew our commitment to the political process and make our voices heard at the ballot box to create a countervailing power.  Reich concludes: "The monied interests are doing what they do best – making money. The rest of us need to do what we can do best – use our voices, our vigor, and our votes."

Here are other snippets

Americans are sick of politics. Only 13 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, a near record low. The President’s approval ratings are also in the basement.
A large portion of the public doesn’t even bother voting. Only 57.5 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the 2012 presidential election. 
Put simply, most Americans feel powerless, and assume the political game is fixed. So why bother? 
A new study scheduled to be published in this fall by Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern University’s Benjamin Page confirms our worst suspicions.
Gilens and Page analyzed 1,799 policy issues in detail, determining the relative influence on them of economic elites, business groups, mass-based interest groups, and average citizens.
Their conclusion: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.
Instead, lawmakers respond to the policy demands of wealthy individuals and monied business interests – those with the most lobbying prowess and deepest pockets to bankroll campaigns.
Before you’re tempted to say “duh,” wait a moment. Gilens’ and Page’s data come from the period 1981 to 2002. This was before the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to big money in “Citizens United,” prior to SuperPACs, and before the Wall Street bailout.
...if we give up on politics, we’re done for. Powerlessness is a self-fulfilling prophesy.
The only way back toward a democracy and economy that work for the majority is for most of us to get politically active once again, becoming organized and mobilized.
We have to establish a new countervailing power.

Another hit on ALEC: Microsoft bails out

Talking Points Memo reports that Microsoft has terminated any involvement with the American Legislative Exchange Council.

"With this decision, we no longer contribute any dues to ALEC," it said. "We are no longer members of ALEC and do not provide the organization with financial support of any kind."
Microsoft joins Coca-Cola, General Motors, Bank of America, and Proctor & Gamble as some of the major corporations that have severed their relationship with ALEC, according to CNET. Others -- like Google, Facebook, eBay, Yahoo, and Yelp -- remain involved with the group.

The problem with the latter group is finding leverage against companies that provide services that are so pervasive in our society.  Perhaps we could convince ALEC to introduce legislation to outlaw social media.  Then those companies might line up behind Microsoft and ditch ALEC.

CNET linked Microsoft's decision with ALEC's bid to stop renewable energy projects. As The Guardian reported last year, Microsoft has begun investing in renewable energy, including an announcement that it would run one of its data centers entirely with electricity produced by a wind farm in Texas.

ALEC could be renounced for other socioeconomic reasons, but let's take this one as a win anyway.  More corporations could stand to figure out that ALEC is not a player to have on your side - unless you are big oil.

"Corporation Commission must force APS to come clean"

The headline of the AZ Republic editorial says it all.  There is a pervasive conviction among journalists, bloggers, and the general public that APS is funding a dark money campaign designed to influence who gets elected to the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) - the state body that regulates utilities like APS.  Officials from APS have steadfastly refused to confirm or deny such rumors.  Scriber's take: they don't want to admit guilt, but to deny it opens them to perjury charges (if APS is engaged in such funding).  There is only one solution now:  ACC commissioners must do their statutory duty and force disclosure.  If that does not happen, we can wonder about, among other things, the connections between APS, a sitting ACC commissioner, his son running for Secretary of State, and the same dark money group funding ads in that campaign.  It's gotten far enough that denials don't cut it.  But those suspicions can be put to rest by vigorous and immediate ACC action.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

GV News Editor interviews AG candidate Brnvch

Oops - there are some vowels in there.  Here are snippets from Dan Shearer's interview with the guy running against Tm Hrn.

Brnovich’s bigger problem [than Tom Horne] (the polls say he should get through the GOP primary relatively easily) is Democrat Felecia Rotellini, whom he’ll likely face in the general.
I spoke to Rotellini in February, and most of the issues I threw at her, I also tossed Brnovich’s way. The difference?
Night and day.
Rotellini was focused and gave very specific, detailed answers to the hard problems we face in Green Valley. Brnovich — a well-seasoned lawyer and former director of the state Department of Gaming — spoke in generalities. This is certainly not unusual for political candidates, but no matter what I did I couldn’t get a concrete answer out of the guy.

Dan goes on to describe the Q and non-A session and then sums it up:

I don’t know where Brnovich stands on anything other than Tom Horne.
Hey, Green Valley, I tried.

That's OK, Dan.  You did.  And thank you for your series of interviews with various candidates.  

A discerning reader will figure out that Rotellini is the best candidate for what should be a non-partisan, expertise-based office.  The question is, in this mainly Republican state, will the low-information voters, who reflexively mark the R bubble, do something reasonable in November.

Democratic primary for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Bob Lord in Blog for Arizona raises some issues to consider - especially if you have not already voted.  (See  Footnote at end of post.)

[David] Garcia has raised more than $200,000 and has almost every Democratic organization and elected official behind him. [Sharon] Thomas, on the other hand, hasn’t been able to gather steam and just yesterday switched from being a Clean Elections candidate to a traditionally funded candidate. It seems she wasn’t able to collect enough $5’s to qualify for funding, leaving her almost penniless before the election.
Sorry, but not being able to collect enough $5′s is a sign of a real organizational problem.

Lord is right: this is not a sign of a viable campaign especially when you think about the dark money that will be thrown at the Democratic candidates for statewide office.

... Sharon Thomas by all accounts is a fine person, but if she doesn’t have the resources to defend herself from the attacks, she won’t make it.
Think about that before you cast your vote.
[Disclosure: I personally support David Garcia in this race]

Scriber's disclosure: So do I.

Footnote.  Hey!  If you haven't already voted, what are you doing reading this?  Get going and do it!

Dark money bets on Dicey "Darth" Ducey

Darth money, perhaps, is the better name for it.  Think of Dicey in a Darth Vader helmet and black cape making pronouncements of doom.  In his best sonorous James Earl Jones imitation: "I will deploy death star satellites to protect the empire and destroy the income tax."

<START SERIOUS PART OF BLOG>

Laurie Roberts at azcentral provides an update on dark money ads directed against Dicey's opponents in the GOP Gov primary.

The Arizona Free Enterprise Club [AFEC] has exploded into public view this summer, spending nearly $1.6 million thus far on independent campaigns -- primarily to stack the Corporation Commission with utility-friendly legislators and to fill the state's No. 2 job with the son of corporation commissioner.

Now they have branched out into the Gov race, attacking another GOP candidate for Gov, Scott Smith.  Says Roberts:

I don't know whether the AFEC is coordinating with the Ducey campaign. What I do know is that this is fifth independent group taking aim at Ducey's opponents -- three of which are dark-money operations.
Meanwhile, all the dark-money attacks save one – an anti-Ducey postcard that didn't list a campaign source -- are linked to people who want Ducey to be our next governor.
Why is that?

Maybe the answer is to be found in the list of those who endorse Dicey.

"Ferguson is not just about systematic racism - it's about class warfare and how America's poor are held back ..."

... says Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in a riveting new op-ed in Time magazine. (h/t Roger White).  

For Abdul-Jabbar wealth inequality is the bigger problem - one that transcends race.  

Note from Scriber.  Now watching Chris Hayes on MSNBC Tuesday evening.  His interviewees in Ferguson point to economic and political oppression as driving young Black men to the street.  Abdul-Jabbar is astute.

Here are snippets from the Times op-ed.

The U.S. Census Report finds that 50 million Americans are poor. Fifty million voters is a powerful block if they ever organized in an effort to pursue their common economic goals. So, it’s crucial that those in the wealthiest One Percent keep the poor fractured by distracting them with emotional issues like immigration, abortion and gun control so they never stop to wonder how they got so screwed over for so long.
One way to keep these 50 million fractured is through disinformation. PunditFact’s recent scorecard on network news concluded that at Fox and Fox News Channel, 60 percent of claims are false. At NBC and MSNBC, 46 percent of claims were deemed false. That’s the “news,” folks! During the Ferguson riots, Fox News ran a black and white photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with the bold caption: “Forgetting MLK’s Message/Protestors in Missouri Turn to Violence.” Did they run such a caption when either Presidents Bush invaded Iraq: “Forgetting Jesus Christ’s Message/U.S. Forgets to Turn Cheek and Kills Thousands”?
How can viewers make reasonable choices in a democracy if their sources of information are corrupted? They can’t, which is exactly how the One Percent controls the fate of the Ninety-Nine Percent.

Police without badges, without names, without accountability

That defines Ferguson.  That defines a police state.  See the report on arrests of reporters by Ferguson police who, apparently, don't want us, the public, to know what they do.  

But then, there are other reporters with cameras, citizens with iPhones, ... See the vox.com report here.  Ponder what modern technology does for Amendment #1.

Images from Ferguson

Several from Talking Points Memo

And the front page from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (h/t TPM)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cartoon to start your day

Stopped for "driving while black" in Ferguson? Try "governing while black" in Washington, D. C.  Check out the cartoon by David Fitzsimmons here.

New tipping point: Poachers kill more elephants than are born

Poachers are taking the oldest, largest breeding males thus screwing up elephant society.  (Yes, elephants do have a society, being extremely social creatures.)  But of equal concern is the the tipping point reported in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (reviewed in this report in Al Jazeera).

You probably know why this is happening. 

In 2011 alone, poachers killed about 1 out of 12 elephants in Africa, the study said. Rapidly growing ivory markets in Asia are driving much of the demand, with one kilogram of ivory now worth thousands of dollars.

So how bad is that?

Poaching has killed 7 percent of the continent’s elephant population annually from 2010-2013, but their birth rate is just 5 percent, according to the report. At those rates the animals could be wiped out within 100 years, and conservationists are worried.

We are in a race.  Will Mother Earth take out Homo Sapiens before we kill off all of her other creatures?  Or will we do the obvious and eliminate the market for ivory? 

Congress will reconsider law providing for transfer of military equipment to police

Congress "will"?  Let's try "might".  But don't bet on any action.  The Senate is doing the reconsidering.  The House, which earlier rejected an amendment to defund the program, is silent at the moment.  Nation of Change has the report.

So far, however, it appears the review in Congress will be one-sided. The NDAA is a bicameral affair, requiring both the House Armed Services Committee and the Senate version to match up in the final review. So while [Senator Carl] Levin has spoken out about the need to review the arms transfers, and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) has introduced a separate bill in the House, his counterpart in the House — Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon — has remained silent on the matter of Ferguson and arms transfers.

Is my pessimism not strong enough for you?  Take this from Salon.com.

Let’s just hope that Representative Johnson’s bill gets a vote in the halls of Washington. One way or the other, I want to know where my elected representative stand.

I do too.  I know the voting record on the defunding amendment back in June.  I wonder if anything has changed.

John Oliver's monologue on protests in Ferguson

Here is the link to the video on vox.com.

John Oliver's monologue on the protests in Ferguson in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown is exactly as angry and hilarious as you might want it to be. On last night's episode of his HBO series, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, he took on everything from the way Ferguson's police chief and mayor have handled the situation to police militarization to how two teenagers in Saginaw County, Michigan, deal with seeing one of those giant tank-like vehicles on the streets of their town.

What we know about Mike Brown and Ferguson, Missouri

A topical list of what we know and don't (yet) know about the events in Ferguson (from Vox.com).

One more thing we know: reporters are not welcomed by the police.  Check out this video about a police threat.

The worst news of the day: Ebola patients escape into Liberian slum

Self-styled rescuers deny Ebola and looters walk off with infected bedding.  Here is the Washington Post account that presents a horrifying probability (more than possibility, I think) of the whole community succumbing to Ebola.  Much of the spread of the disease is due to misinformation and pre-existing behavioral patterns stacked against inadequate medical facilities and personnel.

Confronting the anger of the one percent

Bob Lord's story at Blog for Arizona is spot on.  He tells about the angry rant of a one percenter at a party attended by Lord who was livid about how much income tax he had to pay.  Here's the conclusion to Lord's story.

The one percenter from the party should be deliriously happy with his financial situation. Instead, he’s angry. He feels cheated. He feels he’s overtaxed. He’s far less focused on the hundreds of thousands of dollars he gets to spend however he pleases each year, an amount that can fulfil every material want and need he and his family could reasonably have, than he is on the amount he feels the government “takes” from him.

This one paragraph triggers a host of responses which for me answers the question of why I am not  Republican.  Lord continues:

Unless something changes, he’ll die a very rich man. And a very angry one.
And it will be all Obama’s fault, if you ask him.

Now go to Blog for Arizona and read just a few statistics that this one percenter does not know (and may be incapable of understanding).

Monday, August 18, 2014

Who is Grace-Marie Turner? And why does it matter?

The AZ Daily Star ran one of these he-said-she-said pairs of op-ed pieces in their morning print edition.  The topic was the recent court ruling against subsidies for health care in states that refused Medicaid expansion.  Turner is the author of the article favoring that ruling.

Who is Turner?  She is the head of the Galen Institute.  What's that? It's a "think" tank promoting a free-market approach to health care funded by the Koch Brothers.  Among other things, according to Turner in the op-ed, the Galen Institute favors "genuine price competition to make healthcare more affordable" - in other words, to treat your healthcare as a collection of widgets bought and sold in a capitalistic marketplace.  I wonder if Galen (the Greek physician) would approve.

Here is background on Turner and the Galen Institute (research by Roger White).

About Turner and Galen Institute

Listing of Koch-funded groups includes the Galen Institute

Fact check on assertions about the subsidy ruling in Turner's article

Police get military hardware while violent crimes declined: Can Congress fix that?

How did we get to the point where police ("peace officers") have military  hardware like that used in Ferguson against protesters?  Annie Lowery in a Daily Intelligencer article explains. (h/t Kevin Drum at Mother Jones)

The story of Michael Brown’s death has in no small part been a story of police overreaction. The local force evidently killed an unarmed teenager, and then suited up as if going to war to police the generally peaceful protests that followed. And it’s revealed an irony: Over the past generation or so, we’ve militarized our police to protect a public that has broadly become less and less violent.

Lowery reports on the 1033 program that gave police departments military equipment and documents the tendency to use it if you got it.  She also cites the statistics on the decline of violent crime.  

There's now a bipartisan movement to demilitarize the police. But it's worth remembering that there's defense money on the line. In June, the House failed to pass a partial defunding of the 1033 program. 

Well, you say, that's the Boehner-headed House failing once again.  But it's worse than that.  

On aggregate, the members who voted against the measure received 73 percent more money from defense lobbyists than the representatives who voted for it.

You can poke around here to find out more about that amendment (#918) and who voted against it.

Update: AZ Republic in a powerful editorial also slammed the vote on the 1033 program.  They question the traditional police, protect and serve, versus that implied by the militarization, control and contain.  

The unintended result [of the 1033 program] is profound. Police agencies have become paramilitary units, resulting in the haunting scenes from last week: police in camo, perched on an armored vehicle and training assault weapons on protesters carrying nothing but signs. You expect that in a totalitarian country, not a Midwest suburb. As [conservative columnist Erik] Erickson noted, it is more control and contain than serve and protect.
[From Joan Walsh at Salon.com:] "The images Wednesday night should wake all of us up to the alarming militarization of local cops all over the country. How did a local police department get tanks and trucks and body armor that look like it all was designed for the streets of Baghdad and not a little city outside St. Louis?"

The Republic identifies the problem ...

Libertarians and liberals have for years raised alarms about this. They were met with yawns. In June, the House of Representatives voted down a measure to partially defund the 1033 program, 355-62. Elected officials don't like being seen as soft on crime. Or standing in the way of federal pork for the local cops.

... and has a solution.

Police should be partners, and most want to be. They are better partners in blue than they ever will be in camo. That's why they should eschew the military surplus and why Congress should revisit its June vote.

So here is something that is truly bipartisan - or should be.  It would appear that the only thing standing in the way of action by Congress is the federal pork.  Message to Congress: if you all stand up for what's right, then you don't appear soft - you appear to be doing the right thing.

Live - from Bob McDonnell's underside of America

It is Sunday evening and I am now watching the 60 Minutes program on Virginia, one state that has refused Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.  Media have been reporting on Governor Ultrasound's acceptance of lavish gifts from supporters - even while he and his Republican cronies, turned down the Medicaid expansion - and continue to do so with a new Democratic governor.  Their citizens in Appalachian Virginia, are left behind (economically) and left out (medically).  These people have no routine medical care let alone medical insurance.  They depend on hand-outs.

26 states turned down Obamacare?  Half of America?  What country are we living in?

Five biggest lies about Obamacare

You would think that with the success of Obamacare that ACA would no longer be a political rallying point.  But many of our candidates for state office still want to repeal it.  In the runup to the election we should ask: with what justification?  All they can do by way of answer is to fabricate problems, i.e., lie.

The Daily Beast debunks five lies about ACA.  Here is the conclusion.  

...the preponderance of the evidence so far is that the apocalyptic predictions just aren’t coming true at all. Granted, there’s a lot of other news going on lately, but this is the real reason why Obamacare has kind of dropped out of the news cycle: Republicans aren’t bashing it quite so much anymore, because even they see it’s kind of working.
The damage they’ve already done is considerable. “Health care is a topic that people feel particularly close to as it involves the most important decisions people make; it is also a topic people can feel incredibly anxious about for the same reason,” says Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and a former administration health-care official. “The right wing has preyed upon those anxieties by manufacturing one lie after another to create a veil of opposition against a bill that has so far been pretty effective at covering people and lowering costs.  It is an indictment of our policy deliberations as a country that these lies have been so effective.” Slowly, the truth is catching up.

Now read the article about those five lies.

Terry Goddard ad promises action on dark money

The ad is live and on YouTube.  You can view it at this post in Blog for Arizona.

TEP wants to put solar on your roof for free

Is there a "free" solar system in your future?  Here is the proposal from Tucson Electric Power (reported by AZ Daily Star - tucson.com).

In a move that rankles some in the solar-energy industry, TEP has asked the Arizona Corporation Commission to approve a new program to install company-owned photovoltaic systems on residential customers’ roofs, free of upfront charges.
In exchange, customers would pay a fixed monthly electric rate based on historical usage — estimated at $99 a month for a typical customer who now spends $90 to $100 a month on power — and guaranteed for 25 years. 

So the plan is to install a solar system on your roof for no up-front money, and in return, TEP gets the benefits of that system.  Your rates won't go up, but they won't go down either.  In contrast, if you purchase your own system, you pay for the installation, but you start reaping return-on-investment immediately in the form of greatly reduced electricity costs.

So is the TEP proposal a good deal?  It depends on where you think electric rates are going over the next 25 years - and on whether you will be around to benefit from any long-term savings.

BTW: Did you notice what state government entity gets to rule on this?  Vote Jim Holway and Sandra Kennedy for Arizona Corporation Commission!