Sunday, November 30, 2014

Why do GOPlins hate the EPA? Paul Krugman says it's all about inequality.

Krugman makes the case in his column in the NY Times (reviewed by alternet.org).

Here is the question:

... polluters will defend their right to pollute, but why can they count on Republican support? When and why did the Republican Party become the party of pollution?

The striking fact is that previous Republican presidents (Nixon and George H. W. Bush) played major roles in defending our environment.  EPA was established under Nixon and expanded under Bush.  Now their party has undergone some transformation making the GOP defenders of pollution - on every issue, always.  Just for example:

... Today’s Republican Party is putting a conspiracy theorist who views climate science as a “gigantic hoax” in charge of the Senate’s environment committee. And this isn’t an isolated case. Pollution has become a deeply divisive partisan issue.

What happened?  Here is Krugman's take.

The basic story of political polarization over the past few decades is that, as a wealthy minority has pulled away economically from the rest of the country, it has pulled one major party along with it. True, Democrats often cater to the interests of the 1 percent, but Republicans always do. Any policy that benefits lower- and middle-income Americans at the expense of the elite — like health reform, which guarantees insurance to all and pays for that guarantee in part with taxes on higher incomes — will face bitter Republican opposition.
And environmental protection is, in part, a class issue, even if we don’t usually think of it that way. Everyone breathes the same air, so the benefits of pollution control are more or less evenly spread across the population. But ownership of, say, stock in coal companies is concentrated in a few, wealthy hands. Even if the costs of pollution control are passed on in the form of higher prices, the rich are different from you and me. They spend a lot more money, and, therefore, bear a higher share of the costs.
In the case of the new ozone plan, the E.P.A.’s analysis suggests that, for the average American, the benefits would be more than twice the costs. But that doesn’t necessarily matter to the nonaverage American driving one party’s priorities. On ozone, as with almost everything these days, it’s all about inequality.

Krugman considers other possible explanations and finds them incomplete at best.  Check out his column.

Public service post: How strong is your password?

Creating strong passwords is a must, but how strong is "strong"?  Hackers are pretty good at understanding the psychology of password creation.  Here are some tips on what not to do in your defense against the dark arts.

Theoretical and practical perspectives on psychologies of liberals and conservatives

Here is a review (on alternet.org) of research on cognitive differences between liberals and conservatives.  It contains summaries of research like this:

... a growing body of literature reveals that liberals and conservatives think differently from one another in ways that can even be traced back, in part, to the level of instinctual response, reflecting conservatives’ heightened sensitivity to threat bias. This work is congruent with an integrated multi-factor account offered by John Jost and three co-authors in the 2003 meta-analysis “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition.” In their abstract, they explained,  “Analyzing political conservatism as motivated social cognition integrates theories of personality (authoritarianism, dogmatism–intolerance of ambiguity), epistemic and existential needs (for closure, regulatory focus, terror management), and ideological rationalization (social dominance, system justification).” Their meta-analysis integrated findings from 88 sample studies in 12 countries, with 22,818 individual subjects—meaning it drew on a substantial body of work by others.
Yet, once publicized, it drew such a hostile response there was even talk of Congress defunding the entire field of research into political attitudes. In response, Jost and one co-author wrote a Washington Post Op-Ed, which defused the crisis. In it, they wrote:
True, we find some support for the traditional “rigidity-of-the-right” hypothesis, but it is also true that liberals could be characterized on the basis of our overall profile as relatively disorganized, indecisive and perhaps overly drawn to ambiguity — all of which may be liabilities in mass politics and other public and professional domains.
This statement underscores the point that liberal cognitive tendencies can be as problematic in their way as conservative ones are.

The article also contains practical suggestions for messaging that might reach across that divide:

[There is] “empirical work being done by Rob Willer and Matthew Feinberg … showing that you can get ‘the other side’ to support your side more if you make sure to approach or political arguments into language or have it address the concerns of the other side. So, for example, if you talk about environmentalism as maintaining the purity of the earth, and get conservatives much much more excited about the idea of sustainability and environmentalism.” 

But Dems beware: it cuts both ways.

On the other hand, they also showed that emphasizing the military’s role in providing equal opportunities for minorities impacts liberals to make them more supportive of the military—so adopting different basic frameworks can reach people on both sides of the ideological divide. Their research doesn’t show that differences are erased, but they can be diminished, which is a start.

There is lots more research reviewed here which should be a good starting point for framing messaging for 2016.

Addendum: Wilson grand jury instructions confusing due to difference in state and federal law

The confusion in the instructions reported by Lawrence O'Donnell (see my previous post) might very well have been due to a conflict between Missouri state law and a United States Supreme Court ruling.  The Supreme Court ruled that force against a fleeing suspect is unconstitutional but Missouri never changed its law to comply.  St. Louis Public Radio had two reports, here and here.

Wilson resigns from Ferguson police force, claimed to be paid by ABC for interview

Just about every news source (e.g., Al Jazeera) reports Darren Wilson's resignation.  Here is a claim that he was paid big bucks for the interview with ABC.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Election retrospection: Some lessons to learn for 2016

And we need to learn them because we Dems are already behind -- 2016 started November 5th.

There are some good points in this Daily Kos story and I will highlight some of my favorites in snippets here.  The Daily Kos post also has links to other good retrospective articles.

Lesson: Turn out your base

That is, give the base something to be excited about.  Having Dem candidates run/vote as Republican-lite didn't, and won't, cut it.  The consequence of that is blurring party identities and a loss of enthusiasm.

... The poll says that people who decided on Election Day, in the final week, and in the final month, all went heavily in the Democratic direction, and that it was the Republican voters who had made up their minds months before. The Washington Post's Aaron Blake has a good explanation for what probably happened here—the decision wasn't between Democrats and Republicans, but between Dems and not voting at all: "Also, it's quite possible those Democratic late-deciders are simply partisans who weren't all that enthusiastic about voting and, thus, didn't technically decide until the very end, even as their votes were basically foregone conclusions."

Lesson: Number of phone calls and number of "Knocks" are misleading metrics

Those numbers sound good from campaign managers' stump speeches.  Is there hard evidence of their effect on voter turnout?

... An overview of controlled experiments about GOTV by Vox suggests that even though canvassing is much better at stimulating turnout than, say, mailers or phone calls, canvassing also needs to involve actual good, organic conversations. Simply rushing through the script in order to maximize the number of "knocks" isn't much more effective than forcing people to sit through TV ads.

For those who would take issue with this one, I ask that you reflect on what volunteers get asked to do and how that's measured.  Consider this parallel.  Number of student credit hours is one educational metric used to determine allocation of funds among different university departments.  But is that a measure of quality of education?

Lesson: It's the REAL economy, stupid.

A lot of the post-mortems ... about the election have invoked the confusion about how, on paper, the economy is doing well, and yet, people are dissatisfied with how the economy is treating them in particular, which undercut any Democratic efforts to point to the economy and say that what they're doing is working. ...

Because what they're doing is working mainly for the economic royalty.  The statistic missing from the DCCC flyer about the economy is the decline in real wages even while productivity increased.

Lesson: Get a common, gut-level message and stick to it.

What was the Democratic theme in 2014?  It should have been the economy, stupid.

Ed Kilgore looks for a way forward on talking about the economy, not so much a question of "more" or "less" populism but about getting everyone on the same page with one message about the economy, one that focuses on how inequality hampers growth in general.

Theres a lot more in this article so have at it.

California town on verge of creating its own border patrol

Robert Reich tells a story about the two Americas.  Orinda, CA is an upscale, wealthy community that benefits from a good tax base and donations from parents.  And it zealously guards its schools.

Orinda’s schools are among the best in California – public schools that glean extra revenues from a local parcel tax (that required a two-thirds vote to pass) and parental contributions to the Educational Foundation of Orinda which “suggests” donations of $600 per child.

So what's the big deal?

Orinda doesn’t want to pay for any kids who don’t belong there. Harold Frieman, Orinda’s district attorney, says the district has to be “preserving the resources of the district for all the students.”

Well, maybe some of the students?

Which is why it spends some of its scarce dollars on private detectives to root out children like Vivian.

Vivian attends one of Orinda's schools.  Why do Orindians want her gone? Here's the story on Vivian.

In early November, school officials in Orinda, California, hired a private detective to determine whether a seven-year-old Latina named Vivian – whose single mother works as a live-in nanny for a family in Orinda — “resides” in the district and should therefore be allowed to attend the elementary school she’s already been attending there.
On the basis of that investigation they determined that Vivian’s legal residence is her grandmother’s home in Bay Point, California. They’ve given the seven-year-old until December 5th to leave the Orinda elementary school.
Never mind that Vivian and her mother live during the workweek at the Orinda home where Vivian’s mother is a nanny, that Vivian has her own bedroom in that home with her clothing and toys and even her own bathroom, that she and her mother stock their own shelves in the refrigerator and kitchen cupboard of that Orinda home, or that Vivian attends church with her mother in Orinda and takes gym and youth theater classes at the Orinda community center.
The point is Vivian is Latina and poor, and Orinda is white, Anglo, and wealthy.
And Orinda vigilantly protects itself from encroachments from the large and growing poor Latino and Hispanic populations living beyond its borders.

Reich takes Vivian's story to a more general level.

The bigger story is this. Education is no longer just a gateway into the American middle class. Getting a better education than almost everyone else is the gateway into the American elite.
That elite is now receiving almost all the economy’s gains. So the stakes continue to rise for upscale parents who want to give their kids that better education.
The competition starts before Kindergarten and is becoming more intense each year. After all, the Ivy League has only a limited number of places.     
Parents who can afford it are frantically seeking to get their children into highly regarded private schools.
Or they’re moving into towns like Orinda, with excellent public schools.
Such schools are “public” in name only. Tuition payments are buried inside high home prices, extra taxes, parental donations, and small armies of parental volunteers.  
These parents are intent on policing the boundaries, lest a child whose parents haven’t paid the “tuition” reap the same advantages as their own child. Hell hath no fury like an upscale parent who thinks another kid is getting an unfair advantage by sneaking in under the fence.

Here is the rest of the story.

The other part of this larger story is that a growing number of kids on the other side of the fence are Hispanic, Latino, and African American. Most babies born in California are now minorities. The rest of the nation isn’t far behind. 
According to the 2010 census, Orinda is 82.4 percent white and 11.4 percent Asian. Only 4.6 percent of its inhabitants are Hispanic or Latino, of any race. All of its elementary schools get 10 points on the GreatSchools 10-point rating system.
Bay Point, where Vivian’s grandmother lives, is 41.4 percent white, 54.9 percent Hispanic or Latino of any race, and 11.6 percent African America. Bay Point’s elementary schools are rated 2 to 4 on GreatShools’ 10-point scale.
Many of the people who live in places like Bay Point tend the gardens and care for the children of the people who live in places like Orinda. 
But Orinda is intent on patrolling its border.

And in so doing denies children like Vivian an equal shot at the American dream - a dream that is eroding day by day.

Assuring inequality of educational opportunity is one means of reassuring a future in which the rich get richer.

Orinda seems posed to create its own border patrol.  Is it ready to declare itself the independent state of Orindiana?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Shocking mistake by prosecutors in Darren Wilson grand jury

Lawrence O'Donnell in his "Rewrite": Assistant prosecutors instructed the grand jury with an unconstitutional law.  They gave the grand jury copies of a Missouri law that had been ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 1985.  What did that law say? That police were permitted to use deadly force on a suspect who was running away.  And then, when they tried to re-instruct the jury after Wilson's testimony, the prosecutors screwed up the correction.  If you read nothing else today, view this video.

h/t "Cheri" - a comment in Blog for Arizona.

The Magical Number 108, Plus or Minus 10: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Belief in Our System of Justice

The headline is a play on the famous paper "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information" by George Miller.  

What is the deal with 108?  According to Shaun King writing in the Daily Kos, 108 is the number of days following the shooting of Mike Brown that the Ferguson police claimed Brown had run (and died) 35 feet from Police Officer Darren Wilson.  If you make it 118 (the plus 10), the actual distance finally admitted by the prosecutor, Bob McCulloch, was 118+35=153 feet, not 35.  Even now, as in the interview with ABC News host George Stephanopoulus, Wilson continues to assert the distance to be 35 feet.

Again, Wilson continues to advance the lie because it supports his narrative. If Brown ran half a football field away, it suggests so much more to us than the mental image of his barely making it 10 yards before he, as Wilson suggests, turns around in a demonic rage, and then runs into a hail of gunfire from Wilson's semi-automatic pistol.
If Wilson and the police will tell this lie, so boldly and so publicly, we must ask why. If they will tell this lie, one of fact and math, not of opinion, why do they deserve the benefit of the doubt with every other detail they claim to be the truth in this case?

Therein lies a limit on belief in our judicial system.

Ultimately, this case should've gone to trial, where these claims could be cross-examined and debunked by a truly concerned attorney. But Brown's family, and all citizens who care for justice, were denied this opportunity.

Superintendent-elect Diane Douglas has Spring semester to get her grade above F

Otherwise, the recall effort will kick in during the summer break.  See the story by Montini at azcentral.com.  Of all the letters she didn't care to have added to her name (like, MS, PhD), I would have thought F would be the least desirable.  Maybe not.

P. S.  She appears to keep dodging reporters so she is getting a zero on the first question of the first Spring semester exam.

Update: Judge denies Barber request to count more ballots

Link to the story at azcentral.com.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Two cheat sheets for dinner-time conversation with Tea Baggers and other GOPlins

Here is a before/after comparison on the economy from DCCC (h/t Jim Woodbrey)

And here is another one on Obamacare.

Watch their eyes glaze over and heads explode.  

Happy Gobbler, GOPlins!

Why the best turkey is a pork shoulder

Here is some culinary advice for next Thanksgiving (or any dinner until then) from Ezra Klein at vox.com.

Barber campaign goes to court to get ballots counted

Lawyers for both Barber and McSally campaign are duking it out in court.  The judge is expected to rule early next week.

Here is the story from Jim Nintzel at Tucson Weekly/The Range.

And here is an editorial reaction to which ballots should be counted by Dan Shearer at GV News.

Why is Harry Reid Republican-lite?

He struck a deal with the Republican House leadership on a tax deal that would scrap the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Care Tax Credit while preserving tax breaks for corporations - permanent ones at that.  Nancy Pelosi in the House and Sherrod Brown in the Senate are gathering the votes to prevent the override of the veto certain to come from President Obama.  

So, why IS Harry Reid Republican-lite?  More generally, why do Democratic politicians run away from their own party and its values?

Here are the details in a report from Daily Kos.

P. S.  The wind energy tax credit is in that bill and will be collateral damage if a veto is forthcoming.  The Congress might still work out a tax package that avoids the veto and some windy-states Senators promise to keep the credit alive.  This is what comes of bundling unrelated items into single bills.  Here is the report on that bill from motherjones.com.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why is Tea Party blood pressure off the charts? O. B. A. M. A.

So says Kevin Drum writing at motherjones.com.  He was commenting on an op-ed this morning in the New York Times by Jeremy Peters who wrote, in part:

Mr. Lowry [editor of National Revew] suggested one way Congress could react. “If I were John Boehner,” he said, referring to the House speaker, “I’d say to the president: ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.’ ”

Drum's reaction:

Oh man, I can't tell you how much I wish they'd actually take Lowry up on his suggestion. Can you imagine anything that would strike middle America as pettier and more pointlessly vindictive than this? Anything that would seem feebler and more futile? Anything that could possibly be more evocative of a five-year-old throwing a tantrum?
I guess you could if you put your mind to it. But it would be hard. Obama is really inside their heads, isn't he?

Yes, but it gets even better and closer to home sweet home in crAZy.

At the top of [the Tea Party] list of potential targets are politicians like Senator John McCain of Arizona, a proponent of an immigration overhaul. Their fantasy candidate: Sarah Palin, Mr. McCain’s former running mate, who now spends much of the year at her home in Scottsdale, Ariz. Two prominent conservative activists, who spoke anonymously to reveal private discussions, said leading Tea Party figures planned to reach out to Ms. Palin to see if she was interested in running against Mr. McCain.

I wonder if ritzy Scottsdale is prepped for drunken brawls.

"Still crAZy after all these years." (Simon & Garfunkel)

The Ferguson shooting and grand jury non-indictment: A perfect storm of unbelievability

Here are links to two stories about the shooting of the unarmed, black teenager Mike Brown by Police Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri.  Both are written by Ezra Klein of vox.com and based on now public accounts.  One story is  based on testimony of Brown's companion the day of the shooting, Dorian Johnson.  The other is based on the statement by Darren Wilson.

Klein highlights the notorious unreliability of eye-witness testimony and the fallibility of human memory of rapidly occurring, highly emotional events.

As with Wilson, it's impossible to know where Johnson is telling the truth, where he's lying, and where his memory is simply faulty — eyewitness accounts are completely unreliable even under the best of circumstances, and these were not the best of circumstances.

Note that the eye witness accounts have been reported to contradict the physical evidence.  Note also the timing of the critical events.  Klein again:

But where Wilson's account presents Brown as completely irrational and borderline suicidal, Johnson's account is more recognizable. It isn't a blameless, kindly beat cop who gets set upon by a rampaging Michael Brown. And nor is it a blameless, kindly Michael Brown who gets set upon by a cold-blooded murderer with a badge.
It's a cop who feels provoked by these two young black men who won't get out of the street, and who tries to teach them a lesson, to put them in their place. His actions escalate the situation, and then the adrenaline floods, and then there's a struggle, and the situation escalates, and escalates, and escalates, and then Darren Wilson shoots Michael Brown and Michael Brown dies.
All this happened in less than two minutes. The fight happened in even less than that. And so there's also room for both accounts to be subjectively right. With the adrenaline pumping Wilson might really have grabbed Brown first, but then thought Brown was trying to grab his gun, or beat him to a pulp, even as he was really trying to get away. Brown might have sworn at the cop who almost clipped him with a truck, but after that, he might have really been trying to simply survive the altercation.

In the end we are left with conjectures - "might really have" - that were not put to rest by the grand jury's decision not to indict.

Foreign policy quiz on Iraq and Mideast matters

My quiz is based on an article in motherjones.com by Andrew Bacevich (see last item in this post for his creds).

Q1: Do you believe that Iraq, as a country, still exists? (Yes or No)

If you said "yes", then you believe that:

Considered from this perspective, the "Iraqi government" actually governs, the "Iraqi army" is a nationally representative fighting force, and the "Iraqi people" genuinely see themselves as constituting a community with a shared past and an imaginable future.

If you believe that the greatest Humpty Dumpty of all times, Dubbya, broke Iraq with his trumped up invasion, then you most likely answered "no".  Another reason for answering in the negative would be recognition of the incompatibility of mid-East boundaries and the actual distribution of religious and cultural groups.

Q2: Which of the following assertions (quoted from the Bacevich article) is provably false?

(a) The presence of US forces in the Islamic world contributes to regional stability and enhances American influence.

(b) The Persian Gulf constitutes a vital US national security interest.

(c) Egypt and Saudi Arabia are valued and valuable American allies.

(d) The interests of the United States and Israel align.

(e) Terrorism poses an existential threat that the United States must defeat.

(f) Each of the above is arguably false.

(g) Each of the above is true.

If you affirmed the truth of one or more of these statements, then there is a place for you in the State Department or Pentagon or Council on Foreign Policy.  Bacevich dismantles the rationale for each one of these assertions. Read his essay to find out how.

Andrew J. Bacevich, currently Columbia University's George McGovern Fellow, is writing a military history of America's war for the Greater Middle East. A TomDispatch regular, his most recent book is Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country.

The case for infrastructure investment - and why it is not happening yesterday

David Johnson at ourfuture.org (h/t Daily Kos) reacts to a "60 Minutes" report on our crumbling infrastructure.

“60 Minutes” ran a report Sunday, “Falling apart: America’s neglected infrastructure,” describing the seriousness and damage to the economy caused by our country’s crumbling infrastructure.

The solution is clear: borrow the money while interest rates are low and then start hiring and rebuilding.  The reason why it is not now happening, and may never happen, is simple: Republicans don't want government to succeed.

OK, you say, that's too harsh.  You may be right.  The Republicans might want infrastructure investment but they want more tax breaks for corporations first.

Read Johnson's article - it has the link to the 60 Minutes program.

The next episode in the GOPlin saga: The revenge of the GOPlins

House Republicans are pushing a tax bill that chops out extensions of the earned income credit and child tax credit - it's payback for the President's immigration action.  Let's see if it hits Obama's desk DOA.

The essence follows (from the Kevin Drum article at motherjones.com). 

....Left off were the two tax breaks valued most by liberal Democrats: a permanently expanded earned-income credit and a child tax credit for the working poor. Friday night, Republican negotiators announced they would exclude those measures as payback for the president’s executive order on immigration, saying a surge of newly legalized workers would claim the credit, tax aides from both parties said.
So there you have it. This bill is the first victim of Republican frothing over Obama's immigration order. As revenge, they left out Democratic tax priorities, and Obama is having none of it.

Robert Reich: Why college gets you nowhere

Wages have fallen for non-graduates, but wages for college-educated people have fallen also.  Why?

... While a college education is now a prerequisite for joining the middle class, the middle class is in lousy shape. Its share of the total economic pie continues to shrink, while the share going to the very top continues to grow.

You can find more dismal statistics and analyses in Reich's essay at alternet.org.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Failure to indict is statistically rare - except in police shootings

Here is a report on how the Ferguson grand jury failure to indict is a statistically significant (meaning rare) event.  But if you look at just police shootings, failures to indict are commonplace.  The question, raised in the report from fivethirtyeight.com, is why?

There are at least three possible explanations as to why grand juries are so much less likely to indict police officers. The first is juror bias: Perhaps jurors tend to trust police officer and believe their decisions to use violence are justified, even when the evidence says otherwise. The second is prosecutorial bias: Perhaps prosecutors, who depend on police as they work on criminal cases, tend to present a less compelling case against officers, whether consciously or unconsciously.
The third possible explanation is more benign. Ordinarily, prosecutors only bring a case if they think they can get an indictment. But in high-profile cases such as police shootings, they may feel public pressure to bring charges even if they think they have a weak case.

The release of all the evidence may be enlightening.

From Steve Farley: What we have to look forward to in the next legislative session

Here is a post from Steve's Facebook page this last Friday (11/21/2014).

This morning I took on Senate President Biggs and House Speaker Gowan debating fiscal policy in front of about 800 corporate tax cut fans at the annual conference of ATRA, the AZ Tax Research Association. I believe I more than held my own. The most astonishing moment came when Sen Biggs told the crowd that a court forcing the legislature to adequately fund our schools would be a "great injustice." Then he said that he was confident we would be done with session, complete with a partisan budget in only 65 days, since he figured The governor, speaker, and he would agree on everything. We have a lot of work to do. I did make headway arguing passionately that our schools are more important to a healthy business climate than yet another corporate tax cut and got some applause.

"great injustice"? Since when is education an "injustice"?  The difference between Republican and Democratic brains is large indeed.

IMO, enacting new taxes is not likely.  So we need to support Steve in finding revenue sources by closing loopholes.  More on that to come.

Brewer loses appeal on drivers license ban, Ducey says he will continue losing streak

Here are snippets with the essence of the story from azcentral.com.

A federal appeals court Monday denied Gov. Jan Brewer's request that it reconsider its ruling blocking her denial of driver's licenses to young undocumented immigrants protected by a 2012 deferred-deportation program.

That is, she lost the appeal heard by a 3-judge panel and then asked for the entire court of 11 judges reconsider.  Basically they said "no."

The ruling affects an estimated 20,000 immigrants in Arizona who are protected by the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, policy. The policy allows undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children before June 15, 2007, and who were born after 1981 to be protected from deportation as long as they register and pass criminal-background checks.
Brewer issued an executive order denying licenses to DACA recipients on Aug. 15, 2012, the same day DACA took effect.
Gov.-elect Doug Ducey has said he will continue Brewer's policy with regard to the driver's licenses.
"Clearly, the legal process should play itself out in relation to this matter," said Daniel Scarpinato, Ducey's spokesman. "As the governor-elect has always stated, he will adhere to the law once a final rendering has been reached."

So here you have it -- the first concrete action of the incoming Dicey administration on job creation.

"Gov. Brewer has wasted countless taxpayer dollars defending a misguided and harmful policy that has been rejected time and time again by the courts," said Dulce Matuz, one of five plaintiffs in the case.

It's not a waste.  Think of the countless jobs created by this investment of tax payer dollars.  

Jobs for lawyers, that is.

Update on AZ Fact Check on tax loopholes

Yesterday I posted about a fact check on Steve Farley's claim that the state was losing 12 billion (with a B) dollars because of tax loopholes.  I provided a link to Steve's Facebook photo of the print version of that story. Here is the link to the on-line version of the story.  (Thanks to Steve for the link.)

Before the recall, give Diane Douglas a chance ...

... to do nothing?  The newly elected education superintendent talks crAZy conspiracy theory to the Tea Baggers and ran on one issue - common core.  And yet the voters put her in that position (by an overwhelming mandate of 50.48%) for which she is otherwise completely unqualified.  Laurie Roberts at azcentral.com reports that there already is a recall effort officially underway.

A political committee on Monday filed formal paperwork with the Secretary of State's Office, signaling its campaign to recall Arizona's soon-to-be top educator.
The Coalition to Recall Diane Douglas is set up with a phone number, an e-mail address, a Facebook page and a pair of guys who want to see Douglas bounced from the state superintendent's office.

However, the actual recall cannot happen until July.

Under Arizona law, she gets to serve for six months before she can be recalled, under the enduring principle that our leaders ought to have time to do something silly, scandalous or just plain stupid before we bounce 'em.

What Republicans know about climate change does not influence what they  believe

So says a recent study reported in motherjones.com.  Republicans report changes in temperature but then refuse to believe in climate change.  Not so with Democrats.  You could just as well translate this into economic terms and the belief in trickle-down economics.

How mathematics might work in a GOPlin universe

Or not.

The GOP members of both chambers, notably Ryan and Hatch, could be on their way to rewriting the rules of mathematics.  The basic idea is to make tax cuts for the rich appear to be lest costly than they actually are. If you don't like minus signs in your budgeting, just make the "-" into a "+".  If that happens, look for the economic inequality indicators to take off.

Read the details in this post at motherjones.com.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Why increasing economic inequality might trigger the crash of 2016

I suspect that many Green Valley households are in what Bob Lord at Blog for Arizona calls the Affluent 9%.  Such households should be worried because the concentration of wealth among very few people threatens them just like it has taken a horrific toll on Americans in the bottom 90% bracket.  (Want examples?  Google #MyHungerGames.) Here is the danger.

The affluent 9 percent are those households with annual incomes roughly between $100,000 and $400,000, the 30 million Americans both affluent enough and numerous enough to maintain our facade of prosperity.
They fill our restaurants, populate our shopping malls, and fill the coach sections of commercial airplanes. They trade in their cars before running them into the ground, simultaneously propping up our auto industry and creating a used-car market for those unable to buy new.

But that economic group is at risk because of the increasing concentration of income share in the top 1%.

Saez and Piketty have tracked the distribution of income in America over a 100-year period. Their data establish a consistent relationship between the income share of the top 10 percent of the population and the shares of the top 1 percent and top 0.1 percent.
The top 10 percent’s share of the nation’s income typically matches the top 1 percent’s share of the income that goes to the top 10 percent, and the top 0.1 percent’s share of the top 1 percent income follows this same pattern.
Let’s call this statistical phenomenon the “proportionate sharing pattern.”
Is the pattern a precise relationship? Of course not. We’re not talking immutable laws of physics here. But the pattern has been remarkably consistent over time, with the period between 1931 and 1940 the only substantial aberration.
Otherwise, the pattern has held. If 40 percent of the country’s total income is flowing to the top 10 percent, then about 40 percent of that 40 percent, or 16 percent, will be flowing to the top 1 percent, and about 40 percent of that will be flowing to the top 0.1 percent.
Consider what happens to the share of the affluent 9 percent under a mathematically precise proportionate sharing pattern as income concentrates at the top. Early on, the income share of the affluent 9% increases. But as the share flowing to the top 1 percent expands, the rate of increase for the affluent 9 percent slows. Eventually, when the share of the top 10 percent hits 50 percent of total income, the income share of the Affluent 9 percent peaks at 25 percent, after which it declines. At this point, the affluent 9 percent transition from being beneficiaries of increasing inequality to being victims.

So what will that do?

The question may not be how much income we can cram into the top 1 percent, but how long we can sustain the affluent 9 percent while the income share of the top 1 percent soars. If the affluent 9 percent feel pinched and cut back, our consumption-based economy could implode.

How close are we?  Read Thom Hartmann's book The Crash of 2016.

Steve Farley's stats on the cost of AZ tax loopholes passes AZ Fact Check

From The Farley Report from Phoenix #213: 11-6-14

... while the outcome wasn't quite what I had hoped for, I am pleased that in the face of that rightward headwind blowing across the country we Democrats in the Arizona Senate at least maintained our current membership. Voters have maintained our 17-13 Republican-majority party division as we enter a year that will bring tremendous challenges to keep our state fiscally afloat and schools funded as we face the dual threats of continued economic stagnation and the gaping budget holes left by arbitrary corporate tax giveaways that their proponents promised us would fix the stagnation years ago.
There are solutions to these challenges, and I will advocate as hard as I can to enact them. We can finally tackle the revenue hemorrhaging from more than $12 billion in special interest tax loopholes currently in our sales tax code, like the infamous 4" pipe exemption. We can agree to prune back previously enacted corporate tax cuts that are not yet fully phased in, especially given the statistical lack of correlation between absurdly low business taxes and economic growth. 

AZ Fact Check at The Republic took this claim about tax loopholes on and reports results of their research.  The fact is that AZ could be in the black if most of those loopholes were closed.  Oh, I can hear the howling start now.

Here's Farley's photo of the report in the print edition. (Photo from The Republic, Nov. 23rd, 2014. h/t Jim Woodbrey)

"One man should not dictate immigration policy"

It's not who you think.  Check this post from Kevin Drum at motherjones.com - and then tweet, facebook, and share, share, share.

Lots of Monday Funnies

Grandmother attempts citizens arrest of Ted Cruz. <SATIRE ALERT> The writing is so good it could be true ;) h/t Jerry Stoops

The case against air bags

Another reason to impeach Obama.  Executive clemency includes ...

Excellent selection of cartoons from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Media response to Benghazi report: I told you so!

I did, I did - yesterday in my post on the report from the House Select Intelligence Committee.  That report trashed all the conspiracy theories that received so much press since the Benghazi incident.  But, as Kevin Drum reports at motherjones.com, the report is all but buried in the mainstream media.  (Not the Scriber - I'll make this my lead post.) The sources that did run it hid the story off the front page inside somewhere (as did the Daily Star in its Sunday print edition running the story in its Nation & World section).  Contrast all that with the frequent sensational reporting of Darrell Issa's actions; here is a summary from the Huff Post of my Google search on "issa benghazi".

Fox News was an exception - Drum describes how Fox managed to salvage fiction from fact:

Fox News ran a hilarious story that ignored nearly every finding of the report and managed to all but say that it was actually a stinging rebuke to the Obama administration. You really have to read it to believe it.

A wag of two fingers: The House Committee for its low-key release, and the media for its failure to inform the public of the ultimate resolution of something that should never have caught so much media attention in the first place.

Economic inequality: The real story told by #MyHungerGames

What I've been waiting for: the release of The MockingJay Part 1.  (I hereby confess to being a Hunger Games junkie!)

Friday, Mockingjay: Part 1 was released in theaters, the third highly awaited Hunger Games film. The series is set in a dystopic future America where the vast majority of the population is increasingly poor and disenfranchised, living at the whims of a rich and powerful ruling class.

But there is a message about and from ordinary citizens about the real hunger games in America.

Sound familiar? The activists at the  Harry Potter Alliance, a group that works to translate culture into meaningful social action, sure think so. They've launched #MyHungerGames to allow Americans to tell their own stories of how they manage to get by in a world with spiraling inequality. Ordinary Americans are tweeting about having to decide between eating and heating, or choosing between buying their own medicine or their children's. 

Check alternet.org (which published these snippets) for the serious tweets about #MyHungerGames.

If Obama's executive action caused the world to end ...

... why are you reading this?  That's EJ Montini's take on the silly and harmful rhetoric by our elected representatives featured so prominently in various media sources.  A notable exception: Sen. Jeff Flake's definition of amnesty and why nothing done yet about immigration fits the definition.  Montini writes:

Flake's colleagues should follow his example. They should conduct reasoned debates and leave the over-the-top hyperbole to professionals. Like me.

Fat chance.  Here is one of many silly, baseless comments from AZ Rep. Matt Salmon.

Politicians like Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon said stuff like, "Tonight, President Obama announced to America that he would disregard both our Constitution and the will of the American people."
Although, that's not exactly what Obama announced. Or even close to it.

And then there is the lawsuit filed by Sheriff Joe.  He gets the Muck and Misdirection award.  We ought to install slime squirters (my new invention) in Maricopa voting machines.  When the voter pulls the lever for Joe, they get sprayed with slime.

Now, before we sing praises to Jeff Flake (as does one pundit here, as reported by Daily Kos), consider that the GOPlins in Congress, including Flake, are likely to send Obama stuff he cannot support ... if they can get it together to send him anything at all.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Republican committee report debunks ALL Benghazi conspiracy theories

That's right, all of them were nothing more than "manufactured outrage."  From motherjones.com:

... The House Select Intelligence Committee—controlled by Republicans—has been investigating the Benghazi attacks in minute detail for two years. Today, with the midterm elections safely past, they issued their findings. Their exoneration of the White House was sweeping and nearly absolute. ...

It brings to mind a scene from the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit films in which the band of elves and dwarves and hobbits and men are being pursued by a pack of goblins out to drink their blood and eat their entrails.  The goblins rarely give up.  So it is with the administration trying to do its best with incomplete information about the Benghazi situation.  So it is with the administration trying to learn from the attacks and do better in the future.  Harried by GOPlins all the way.    

... Late on a Friday afternoon, when it would get the least attention, a Republican-led committee finally admitted that every single Benghazi conspiracy theory was false. There are ways that the response to the attacks could have been improved, but that's it. Nobody at the White House interfered. Nobody lied. Nobody prevented the truth from being told.
It was all just manufactured outrage from the beginning. But now the air is gone. There is no scandal, and there never was.

But like goblins, GOPlins never give up.  The media response to the committee report will be slow and small.  The public will forget.  And the GOPlins will just move on to another manufactured crisis.

Elephants have a short memory? No, just GOPlins willfully ignoring history

Good cartoon but a serious message - Reagan and the Bushes took action also. But the GOPlins are blowing their stack now.  Here is the quiz: why?  (A) Obama is a Democrat. (B) Obama is black. (C) Both of the above. (D) None of the above - we should import real elephants from Africa.

Another reaction to Obama's immigration action

Here is one from Stephen Lemons at Phoenix New Times.  In his post there are interesting snippets supporting the legality of Obama's action - including part of a ruling on SB1070 from a SCOTUS justice.  Our crAZy GOPlins in the US House cannot beat the Supreme Court, right?

Saturday with Fitzsimmons: Dice Ducey hires tooth fairy as financial advisor

This is one of Fitz's best.  But I have this nagging feeling that today's satire will become tomorrow's reality.  Move over, Toto, crAZy is about to muscle in on your act.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Breaking: House GOP files health care lawsuit

This email just came from the NY Times.

House Republicans filed a long-threatened lawsuit Friday against the Obama administration over unilateral actions on the health care law that they say are abuses of the president’s executive authority.
The lawsuit — filed against the secretaries of the Health and Human Services and Treasury Departments — focuses on two crucial aspects of the way the administration has put the Affordable Care Act into effect.
The suit accuses the Obama administration of unlawfully postponing a requirement that larger employers offer health coverage to their full-time employees or pay penalties. (Larger companies are defined as those with 50 or more employees.)
In July 2013, the administration deferred that requirement until 2015. Seven months later, the administration announced a further delay, until 2016, for employers with 50 to 99 employees.

So they are suing because Obama gives them what they want?  It's not about health care.  It's about getting the President.

Reactions to Obama's action on immigration

This is the biggest news of the day, and possibly the biggest news on the domestic front since the Affordable Care Act.  But what makes it news is not the action.  Proportionately, it is no bigger than what other presidents, of both parties, have done.  What makes it news is the craziness of the reactions from the right-wing and the decision to not run the speech by the major networks.  We live in a world in which the reactions are more newsworthy than the action itself.

First, FYI, at the Whitehouse Blog are transcripts and links to the video of the President's speech.  (In case you missed it ...)

How the media got it wrong ... if they got it at all

Here is the reaction from NY Times in an editorial statement masquerading as a news report.

President Obama chose confrontation over conciliation on Thursday as he asserted the powers of the Oval Office to reshape the nation’s immigration system and all but dared members of next year’s Republican-controlled Congress to reverse his actions on behalf of millions of immigrants.

Are you effing kidding me?  Choosing "confrontation over conciliation"? This is a classic GOP reframing ploy.  And from the Times?  Shame.

That's the good news.  The bad news, for the media and the country, is that the big networks chose not to show the speech at all.  (I did my viewing with Rachel Maddow.)  John Nichols at The Nation blasts those networks.

How has the American circumstance so decayed in a nation that once so well understood the wisdom of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's observation that "democracy alone, of all forms of government, enlists the full force of men's [and women's] enlightened will"?
There's plenty of blame to go around. But let's start with broadcast media that are so indefensibly irresponsible that television networks cannot take time away from their relentless profiteering to present a short address by the president of the United States—an address announcing an executive order on an issue that is universally recognized as consequential and controversial.
ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox—four major broadcast networks—all declined to interrupt prime-time programming to air President Obama's Thursday evening address on immigration policy. Though cable news channels, public television stations and Spanish-language stations cleared time for the president's speech, the big broadcast networks stuck with fare such as The Biggest Loser.
The absurdity of the choice made by the networks was only heightened by the fact that the network-aligned local television stations that were set to broadcast entertainment programs rather than the president's address just pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars for airing the slurry of negative campaign commercials that have become the crude lingua franca of our politics. A good many of those commercials focused on the issue of immigration. And the stations that aired those ads would gladly accept more cash from groups seeking to attack or embrace the president's position.
The result is a democratically dysfunctional imbalance where viewers of the major broadcast networks and of local television stations that carry their programming can get more information from paid political advertisements about a policy than from the policymaker himself. And forget about honest debate, even in the constrained form of a presidential address followed by a response from the leader of the opposition.
The first televised address by an American president was a 1947 request by Harry Truman that Americans consume one less slice of bread each day in order to free up grain for post-war Europe. Since then, presidents have used primetime access to explain nuclear policy, announce invasions, advance civil rights, promote energy conservation, ponder the ramifications of stem cell research and warn about the threat posed by the military-industrial complex. Not every address has been dramatic, and some have been self-serving. Most would have benefited from a response by an opposition leader. But all were aired by the broadcast networks as part of the duty to the American people that goes with surfing the public airwaves.
So, too, was a 2006 address by then-President George W. Bush on immigration policy.
"In 2006, Bush gave a 17 minute speech that was televised by all three networks that was about deploying 6,000 national guard troops to the border," a senior Obama administration aide griped to Politico. "Obama is making a 10 minute speech that will have a vastly greater impact on the issue. And none of the networks are doing it.

The GOPlins threaten to take up arms

Well, almost.  Some of them are threatening shutdown,  withholding funds, blocking Presidential appointments, impeachment, and even predicting civil unrest and violence.  It's almost like wishful thinking on their part.  Here's a summary from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

The cooler heads admit that Obama has the legal authority to do what he said.

Sam Stein reports that even the vanguard of conservative lawyers, The Federalist Society, says that the president is acting well within the executive discretion given to him by U.S. immigration laws and legal precedents.

But it goes downhill from there.

What President Obama is doing is similar to what a judge would do with a deadlocked jury — he is issuing a Dynamite Charge, telling Congress to go back and try harder to reach a bipartisan agreement on immigration reform to break this political stalemate. This is a clarifying moment for Tea-Publicans in Congress.
President Obama has repeatedly said that he wants a bipartisan and comprehensive immigration reform bill, and if it reaches his desk he will sign it. The president has also said that he will rescind the executive orders he is about to sign in the next day if only Congress were to send him a bipartisan and comprehensive immigration reform bill.
What Congress should do is what any rational, right-minded individual would do, and send a bipartisan and comprehensive immigration reform bill to the president for his signature. As luck would have it, there already is a bipartisan and comprehensive immigration reform bill that overwhelmingly passed the Senate in July 2013. We have been assured repeatedly by leaders in the House that there are sufficient votes to pass this bill in the House if only the TanMan, Weeper of the House John Boehner, would allow it to come to a vote.

So hey, NY Times, the conciliation already happened.  Boehner is the guy you should be blaming for the confrontation.

AZBlueMeanie asks:

Is the modern-day Tea-Publican Party capable of sound public policy and governance? Or is it just an echo chamber for the most deranged demagogues of the conservative media entertainment complex?
We are about to find out in this clarifying moment in history.

I would not bet on the outcome.  Here is why: a summary of some of the GOPlins' threats also from AZBlueMeanie:

... will this craven coward [Boehner] cave under pressure from the dangerous demagogues of the conservative media entertainment complex, and pursue a destructive path by filing a frivolous lawsuit, as supported by Arizona’s Rep. Paul Gosar; or defund government agencies that would enforce the president’s executive orders, as supported by Arizona Reps. Matt Salmon and Tent Franks; or engage in political retaliation against Democrats as proposed by Senator Ted “Calgary” Cruz Block Obama’s nominees, Cruz urges ; or take the country hostage again by failing to pass spending bills and shut down the federal government until the president capitulates to their ransom demands; or give in to the worst desires of those afflicted with Obama Derangement Syndrome and pursue impeachment in the House, as Arizona’s Rep. Salmon has suggested?

And then there is this really loony tune from US Senator Tom Coburn:

“The country’s going to go nuts, because they’re going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it’s going to be a very serious situation,” Coburn said on Capital Download. “You’re going to see – hopefully not – but you could see instances of anarchy. … You could see violence.”
Is Coburn suggesting armed insurrection against the federal government over lawful executive orders with which he and the right-wing disagrees, i.e., “Second Amendment remedies”? Would this violence be directed at people who appear to be Latinos, American born or otherwise?

It really is almost like Coburn wants it to happen.  Has a US Senator ever been convicted of incitement to riot?

On the other side, there are some cooler heads among the local Tea-publicans.

A group of Arizona Republicans and business leaders on Wednesday urged Congress to act on immigration even as President Barack Obama is poised to take executive action to shield millions of people in the country illegally from deportation.
Members of the advocacy group include state Sen. Bob Worsley, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith and Barry Broome, president of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.
Worsley said the Arizona effort is part of a nationwide push to tamp down anger among GOP members of Congress and channel it toward reform instead. He noted comments from some Arizona Republicans he viewed as counterproductive.
“Our Republican Congressional delegation has been getting a lot of national press on their comments,” Worsley said, “and it’s not been on solving the problem, it’s been ‘how do we punish or reverse what he’s doing.’”
Worsley said a better reaction for Republicans would be to sidestep Obama’s actions by passing a GOP immigration bill fixing the nation’s broken system.

Of course.  But that's been Obama's position all along.  The do-nothing congress, the House, more precisely, has balked at doing anything all along.

So, place your bets.

Reactions from Latinos

Here it is in one photo.

Workers at a union headquarters in San Francisco watched President Obama's televised remarks. Mr. Obama said millions of unauthorized workers could “come out of the shadows.” Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

OK, Latinos, enjoy the day - be happy.  And then get the hell out and vote!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Are Dems out of new ideas?

... is the question posed by Ezra Klein at Vox.com.  Answer: it depends on who you ask.

Klein reports from the annual policy meeting of the Center for American Progress (a liberal think tank).

I asked Neera Tanden, the CAP's president, and a former policy staffer for both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, whether Democrats were intellectually exhausted. No, she said, but the thinking on the left had become too small; as a side-effect of being in power, Democrats had become too obsessed with ideas that could plausibly pass. "The difficulty for progressives in the last few years has been that trying to think up ideas that can make it through the House Republicans has limited the debate."
"We did this report," Tanden says, "that showed that if you look at the prototypical family — double earner, two kids — their wages have stood still since roughly 2000, but their cost of living has gone up by about $10,000 because of things like child care and health care. We have had tax policy that has ameliorated that challenge by about $5,000. But they still have $5,000 less than they did before. So you can see why they're getting kind of irritated."


Tanden argues that thid is the key issue going forward: the vise of stagnating wages and rising costs. And on it, "Republicans have heretofore put forward ideas that are counterproductive. But Democrats have put forward ideas that are insufficient."

For 2016, it should be the economy, stupid. Finding the moral high ground in that graph is a no-brainer.  The challenge is casting it in a way that gets emotionally at the "prototypical family" and then gets them to vote their pocketbook.


Elizabeth Warren goes after Republican trickle down economics

TalkingPointsMemo has a report on Elizabeth Warren's keynote address at the Center for American Progress meeting.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) went straight after Republicans, blasting the GOP on deregulation and trickle down economics during a Center for American Progress event on Wednesday.
"The Republicans have a pretty simple philosophy: they say if those at the top have more — more power for Wall Street players to do whatever they want and more money for tax cuts than somehow they can be counted on to build the economy for everyone else," Warren said. "Well, we tried it for 30 years and it didn’t work. In fact the consequences were nearly catastrophic."
The senator from Massachusetts, near the end, interestingly, did also seem to suggest there should be some introspection in the Democratic party.
"People across this country get it. Sure, there’s a lot of work to be done and there’s a long way to go before Democrats can reclaim the right to say that we’re fighting for America’s working people, that we’re fighting to build a future not just for some of our children but for all of our children," Warren said. "No, we’re not there yet but don’t forget the good news. Our agenda is America’s agenda."

She was too gentle.  Her use of "reclaim" implies that Dems have lost their way.  

(See preceding post above for more on the CAP meeting.  I do wish they'd use a different acronym - one not tainted by AZ politics.)

Raul Grijalva: Republican-lite didn't work in 2014, won't cut it in 2016

From a letter from Congressman Grijalva:

There’s no one single reason why we lost two weeks ago. The pollsters and the pundits all have a million reasons. But, here’s what I know. When Democrats articulate our values, we win. When we try to be Republican-lite, we lose.
In 2008 and 2012, we ran as Democrats. We talked about our values – peace, justice and equality for all. We won. This year, Democrats across the nation joined the attacks against our party and our values. What happened? We lost. Big.
So, where do we go from here? We build. We build a stronger Progressive Caucus in the Congress. We empower the grassroots. We push progressive legislation. And, we deliver real results. Then, we’ll prove to all our voters who stayed home that we really are on their side.

Keystone XL pipeline fails in Senate vote

That's the good news.  The bad news is that it failed by one vote.  To paraphrase the Terminator, it will be baaaack.

The other neat thing is that Senator Elizabeth Warren was presiding when the vote was taken.  Here are some snippets from a post by Amy Goodman at truthdig.com.

It was a dramatic scene in the Senate this week. As Sen. Elizabeth Warren, presiding, announced the defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline, a Crow Creek Sioux man from South Dakota sang out in the Senate gallery. A massive people’s climate movement against extracting some of the dirtiest oil on the planet had prevailed ... at least for now.

Here is why the "for now."

It was a Democrat, Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, representing oil interests, who tried to push the pipeline through. She hoped its passage would help her in the Dec. 6 runoff election against her challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy, who sponsored a similar bill in the House. The Republicans have promised to reintroduce the bill when they take control of the Senate in January.

There are two pieces of bad news there.  The first is that Dems are "working across the aisle".  The second is that the GOPlins will surely bring up the bill again next year when they have control of the Senate.

P. S.  Paul Waldman in the Washington Post Plum Line does a tally of which Dems voted with Landrieu.  He concludes:

... red-state Democrats still live their lives in a state of perpetual terror that someone might call them a liberal (the only red-state Democrats who voted No were Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, both of whom are retiring).
If these votes don’t change, when Republicans bring the pipeline up again in the new Congress, it will have enough votes to overcome a filibuster — but still fall short of the 67 that would be needed to override a presidential veto. And the Democrats who supported the pipeline will find that it really didn’t help them.
Their red state colleagues who lost their elections have already found out that high-profile breaks with their party don’t keep you politically safe. And indeed, those red-state losses have made the Democratic caucus in the Senate more liberal, and it’s possible that in 2016 the number of red state Democrats will decline even further (even if Democrats gain seats overall). So even if there is still the possibility of Dem divisions on some issues, the fracturing off of red state Dems could matter less and less over time, making the future of Democrats in Congress one of more, not less, unity.

Let's hope so.

The alternative to Keystone XL? Repair our leaky pipes

Will that happen with the GOPlins soon to be in charge of both House and Senate?  Not likely, but it's worth dreaming about.  At least Joe Conason at truthdig.com thinks so.

With the Keystone XL pipeline stalled again, now perhaps we can look ahead and consider more promising ways to rebuild our energy system, creating many more jobs than that controversial project ever would. No matter where we look, the far larger issue that still confronts Americans is decaying infrastructure—which emphatically includes the enormous web of oil and gas pipelines crisscrossing the continental United States in every direction.
When TransCanada CEO Russ Girling touted Keystone as an engine of employment on ABC News’ “This Week” last Sunday, he insisted that its construction would create 42,000 jobs. Not only would his venture create those 42,000 “direct and indirect” jobs, boasted Girling, but also those positions would be “ongoing and enduring” rather than temporary like most construction jobs; he cited a State Department study that drew no such conclusions. A company spokesman later tempered Girling’s pronouncements, more or less acknowledging that they had been grossly exaggerated. The number of permanent jobs after the construction would top out at about 50. With or without Keystone, the national economy already produces about 42,000 jobs every week, so it just wouldn’t matter much.
Rather than a new pipeline for the dirtiest tar-sands fuel, what America needs is a commitment to repair the “leaks and seeps” that have made the old network of pipelines a continuing danger to health and safety, air and water—as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka noted in a 2013 interview with The National Memo. The labor chief estimates that a serious program of repair to degraded oil and gas facilities would mean at least 125,000 jobs a year—three times as many as Keystone [claims]—and they would continue for decades.

Infrastructure investment should be one of the morally (and economically) slanted policies and messaging for Dems going into 2016.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Election retrospection: predictions of 2016 disaster for GOP - from a conservative

I know you are tired of looking at the election - enough already, right?  Well, this is a very good read and should be a motivator for Dems to prevail in 2016.  Read on.

Feeling down about 2014?  Look ahead to 2016!  We've heard a little about how the 2016 Senate races will favor Dems.  Here is a more in-depth look at what 2016 holds for the GOP from Chris Ladd, a conservative columnist, (h/t Jim Woodbrey) and additional commentary from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.  Here are snippets from Ladd's column.

Few things are as dangerous to a long term strategy as a short-term victory. Republicans this week scored the kind of win that sets one up for spectacular, catastrophic failure and no one is talking about it.
What emerges from the numbers is the continuation of a trend that has been in place for almost two decades. Once again, Republicans are disappearing from the competitive landscape at the national level across the most heavily populated sections of the country while intensifying their hold on a declining electoral bloc of aging, white, rural voters. The 2014 election not only continued that doomed pattern, it doubled down on it. As a result, it became apparent from the numbers last week that no Republican candidate has a credible shot at the White House in 2016, and the chance of the GOP holding the Senate for longer than two years is precisely zero.

Here are some more reasons, Ladd says, why GOPlins should be worried.

Across the country, every major Democratic ballot initiative was successful, including every minimum wage increase, even in the red states.
Every personhood amendment failed.
For only the second time in fifty years Nebraska is sending a Democrat to Congress. Former Republican, Brad Ashford, defeated one of the GOP’s most stubborn climate deniers to take the seat.
In Congress, there are no more white Democrats from the South. The long flight of the Dixiecrats has concluded.

And most telling:

Democrats in 2014 were up against a particularly tough climate because they had to defend 13 Senate seats in red or purple states. In 2016 Republicans will be defending 24 Senate seats and at least 18 of them are likely to be competitive based on geography and demographics. Democrats will be defending precisely one seat that could possibly be competitive. One.

But the GOPlins are not likely to be listening to this "conservative Cassandra".

What are we getting from Republicans? Climate denial, theocracy, thinly veiled racism, paranoia, and Benghazi hearings. Lots and lots of hearings on Benghazi.
Something, some force, some gathering of sane, rational, authentically concerned human beings generally at peace with reality must emerge in the next four to six years from the right, or our opportunity will be lost for a long generation. Needless to say, Greg Abbott and Jodi Ernst are not that force.

Now, before you rejoice, you should read AZBlueMeanie's reaction.

Mr. Ladd’s analysis is very good so far as it goes with respect to presidential elections and the presidential electorate. I would add the caveats, however, that the candidates do still matter, and the issues that the media chooses to fixate on during an election also matter.

And we need to take a hard look at the Dems' structural deficit

Democrats still have a problem with midterm election drop-off among its core constituencies, and this affects the election of governors and state legislatures. It also affects congressional seats.

Lastly, I would add, for the above reasons and more,  that now is not the time to breathe a sigh of release.  Go ahead, take a break day or two, and then get to work preparing for 2016.  All the conservative Cassandra's predictions will come true if two things happen:  the GOPlins follow mythological precedent and don't listen to his message, and the Democrats do a snappy post mortem and use all this as a motivation for GOTV -- now.

Election retrospection: Dems should retool their message for 2016

Here is a "blueprint" for 2016 (at politico.com).  I don't know about government reform, but focus on the economy is critical.

What to do about the dismal voter turnout? Bernie Sanders says call a holiday

We know some, if not all, of the reasons for poor voter participation: voter suppression laws, feelings of powerlessness, perceptions of little to no difference between candidates, declining fortunes of newspapers.  Whatever I might have missed here John Nichols at The Nation covers.  He also lists some possible remedies.  The simplest and most immediately doable is Bernie Sanders' call for making federal election days national holidays.

How about making Election Day a holiday? That’s hardly a radical idea. Countries around the world schedule elections on weekends or recognize weekdays when elections are held as a holiday. Louisiana usually votes on Saturdays. And roughly a dozen states and jurisdictions give some recognition to Election Day as a holiday. So why not take the idea national?
That’s what Senator Sanders is proposing. Even before November 4, the independent from Vermont argued that, as part of a broader effort to generate the largest possible turnout, “Election Day should be a national holiday so that everyone has the opportunity to vote.”
After the turnout crisis became evident—even in his own traditionally high-turnout state of Vermont, where voter participation fell to 43.7 percent, the worst rate on record—Sanders acted. He proposed the “Democracy Day Act of 2014”—a simple piece of legislation that would designate each and every federal Election Day as a public holiday.
“We should not be satisfied with a ‘democracy’ in which more than 60 percent of our people don’t vote and some 80 percent of young people and low-income Americans fail to vote,” says Sanders. “We can and must do better than that. While we must also focus on campaign finance reform and public funding of elections, establishing an Election Day holiday would be an important step forward.”

More comments on Obama's immigration action and the childish GOPlins

Why is the President the only adult in the room? See Kevin Drum's reaction to David Brooks at motherjones.com.

And Ed Kilgore's short piece decrying GOP delays and backtracking in the Washington Monthly.

Wretched excess watch: trickle-up economics

Paul  Buchheit (in alternet.org) gives four examples of how the super-rich rationalize their greed.

Robert Reich (at robertreich.org) asks how the richest 0.01 percent spend their money.  Yes, they indulge in wretched excess, but they also buy politicians - with lots and lots of cash.  Here's the conclusion of his post.

If you want to know what’s happened to the American economy, follow the money. That will lead you to the richest .01 percent.
And if you want to know what’s happened to our democracy, follow the richest .01 percent. They’ll lead you to the politicians who have been selling our democracy.

Ebola takes an economic toll because of geographic illiteracy

Tim Steller at the Daily Star/tucson.com describes how one travel agency has been affected by Fearbola.  Would you believe that people are sacrificing substantial sums of money on deposit for trips to Africa?  Why? Because they are afraid.  Why?  Because they know nothing about geography - or choose to ignore what they do know.  The country of South Africa is nowhere near the West African epicenter for the Ebola outbreak.  Neither are the popular tourist destinations of Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and (my most recent destination) Zambia.  Sometimes words fail.

Aiming at Obama

Check this cartoon from truthdig.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Gov. elect Ducey voews not to roll back tax cuts, hires voodoo cult to advise on balancing budget

Actually, the last part of the headline is partly true.  Dicey Ducey does not have a plan other than doing some fiscal legerdemain to balance a budget and the unwavering belief in voodoo economics.  This is the lead story in the print edition of the Daily Star.

Doug Ducey acknowledged in an interview that projected revenues for the next fiscal year will be less than $8.79 billion, while current spending is at $9.3 billion.
But the budget is considered “balanced,” with the difference financed through accounting maneuvers, borrowing, raiding some special state funds, and tapping the last of the cash left over from the now-expired temporary 1-cent-per-dollar sales tax increase.

Got that?  He will tap $500,000,000 in state funds to keep the cash flowing to his bidness buddies.  No surprise there - he promised to not just preserve tax cuts but to cut more taxes.  How is he going to do it?

Ducey said there are places to cut expenses, but he conceded he cannot get spending down to that $8.8 billion revenue figure — at least not this coming year.

>>... Ducey does not yet have a plan. “This is going to take some time,” he said. In the interim, Ducey said, his job is to figure out how to use the money now available “to manage through the situation that we have.”

But a plan is shaping up.  Not in the plan: any kind of tax increase.  So what to cut?

Funding for K-12 education, projected at $3.8 billion this coming year, is set by a statutory formula. And even if the state escapes another $336 million to schools to fund a voter-mandated inflation formula — to say nothing about the $1 billion in missed payments — legislative budget staffers say school aid has to increase by $175 million next year.
Then there’s another $57 million for the state’s $1.3 billion Medicaid program, also set by law.
Those two alone take up more than half the budget.

So, I predict, here comes the 2-part recommendation of the voodoo cult.  (1) Hope that the lege's lawsuit against K-12 education succeeds. (2) Get the lege to repeal the medicaid program. 

And then the state will have such a fine environment for business that our economy will just take off.

Sure.

Brace yourselves.  Elections do have consequences.  This is just the start.

Oh, yes.  About that voodoo cult?  Donna Gratehouse in Blog for Arizona reports on who is getting hired to help balance the budget.  Quoting from the press release:

PHOENIX (November 17) – Governor-elect Doug Ducey announced today the formation of a Budget Study Committee, led by a team of public and private sector professionals charged with studying the budget and providing expertise and feedback to the governor-elect.
Throughout his campaign for governor, Ducey made clear he intended to go through the budget line by line in order to ensure Arizona lives within its means and invests in priorities for the state with a focus on economic growth and education.
“Before we can address the challenges facing our state, we need to do our homework,” Ducey said. “This team of professionals will provide a diverse set of perspectives on our state finances. It’s important to me to hear from those who have dealt intimately with the state budget, in addition to receiving an outside perspective from the private sector, so we can adopt mechanisms to be more effective, accountable and efficient with our resources. I look forward to working with them to get our arms wrapped around the budget and examine the best ways to balance it while also growing our economy and ensuring there is money in classrooms to help teachers teach and students learn.

She identifies each member of the voodoo cult (err, "team of professionals") and then makes this observation.

Note the broad diversity in, um, hairstyles among this crew that appears to be an assemblage of right-leaning bureaucrats, business finance types, and the vice president of a quackadoodle “taxpayer rights” group. Notably absent are any representatives from public education, health care, poverty advocacy, or child welfare organizations. Not that it comes as a shock or anything, but it’s kind of looking obvious the backs from whom those “line by line” cuts to the budget that Ducey keeps promising are going to be taken. It will not be from anyone who wrote big campaign checks to Doug Ducey, I can promise that.

Election retrospection: Dems mull election loss

DCCC chair Steve Israel is sticking by the national strategy.

Despite the heavy losses, Israel remains a firm champion of the party’s ground game this year, insisting that without investments in that area the GOP wave could have been larger. ...
The party certainly had a large number of vulnerable incumbents to defend, for whom the president’s sinking favorability posed a constant threat. But it’s also true that the party seemed unable to stick to the economic messaging it touted at the beginning of the 2014 cycle as its road to victory.
Israel says that was the byproduct of the electorate’s unexpected focus on international issues.

And the Washington Post story goes on with speculations about recruiting candidates and funding their 2014 campaigns.

Here at home, party officials also speculate about causes for the losses in AZ.  For example, from Bill Roe, ADP chair:

"Anger is not a strategy. It doesn't get you anywhere," Roe said. "We've got to figure out how we do it better than we did it this year.

Agreed - anger is not a strategy, but it is a potent motivator.  Maybe Dems need to get mad before they can figure out how to get even.  Point 2:  I hope I am reading this wrong, but I worry about what "it" is.  Do we need to do "it" better, or envision and enact a different "it"?

Read the full story at The Republic/azcentral.com.

Boehner's immigration inaction forces Obama to act ... finally

Eugene Robinson, in his Washington Post op-ed (reprinted in today's Daily Star) has some things to say about Obama's impending immigration action ... and Boehner's inaction.

Oh, please. All the melodramatic Republican outrage isn’t fooling anybody. The only reason President Obama has to act on immigration reform is that House Speaker John Boehner won’t.
I repeat: That’s the only reason. The issue could have been settled a year ago. It could be settled in an afternoon. The problem is that Boehner refuses to do his job, preferring instead to spend his time huffing and puffing in simulated indignation.
On June 27, 2013, the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill by a 68 to 32 vote. Boehner refuses to bring it to the House floor, even though he knows it probably would pass.
Make that because he knows it probably would pass. Most House Republicans vehemently oppose the Senate measure — though it’s hard to understand why — which means the votes to approve it would come from Democrats and the few remaining GOP moderates. By doing the right thing, Boehner would incur the wrath of his own caucus. That’s his problem, not Obama’s.

Let me propose another view.  Given the draconian hurdles embedded in the Senate bill, executive action may be the best outcome for Dreamers. Robinson continues:

The president has not just the right but also the obligation to “use all the lawful authority that I possess,” as he promised last week in a long-deferred effort to repair an immigration system that both parties agree is broken. Law and precedent give Obama wide latitude, and at this point he can hardly be accused of acting rashly.
It is better for all of us if these people — the vast majority of whom will be here anyway — are allowed to contribute to the economy openly. We all gain if they pay their full share of taxes, if they improve their skills through education, if they start businesses and create jobs. We squander their potential by consigning them to precarious, makeshift lives that can be undone by a random traffic stop.
We’ve done amnesty before under Ronald Reagan. This is not just an exercise in compassion. If House Republicans won’t consider the national interest, Obama has no choice but to act.

AZ Corporation Commission should not abandon energy efficiency standard

From an op-ed in today's Daily Star: dropping energy efficiency standard would be a costly step backward.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Delusions of Democrats (and some therapeutic advice)

Delusions of Democrats (and some therapeutic advice)

An op-ed by Kevin Baker in yesterday's NY Times opinion section (1) tells us what we know - we lost big time - but with all the gloomy numbers, (2) debunks Democratic delusions about why our losses are so big, and (3) prescribes some idealistic medicine as a start on the curative pathway to a rejuvenated Democratic party.

Here are the closing snippets:

Today’s Democratic Party, with its finely calibrated, top-down fixes, does not offer anything so transformative [as the grand Democratic programs from years past such as the GI Bill]. It seems scared of its own shadow, which is probably why it keeps reassuring itself that its triumph is inevitable. It needs instead to fully acknowledge just how devastating the recession was for working people everywhere in America, and what a generation of largely flat wages did to their aspirations even before that. It needs to take on hard fights, even against powerful forces, like pharmaceutical and insurance companies that presume to tell us the limits of what our health care can be or energy companies that would tell us what the world’s climate can endure. It means carving out a place of respect for working men and women in our globalized, finance-driven world.
Invite us to dream a little. You don’t build an enduring coalition out of who Americans are. You do it out of what we can be.

Now that's a start.  Doing right by working men and women will mean dreaming a little about big dreams.  But we cannot get off the starting line so long as Democrats run away from those dreams.

h/t Michele Manos

Essays on the GOP response to Obama's agenda: break the government

Charles Blow in the NY Times comments on the looming battle.  Now that SCOTUS has jumped into the fray over Obamacare, all three branches are contestants.  And this is not good for the country.

According to a June poll by Gallup, “Americans’ confidence in all three branches of the U.S. government has fallen, reaching record lows for the Supreme Court (30 percent) and Congress (7 percent), and a six-year low for the presidency (29 percent).” While the blood sport of these clashes is likely to enthrall pundits and policy wonks, I fear that it won’t be good for the republic — particularly Democrats.
Liberal ideology depends on a productive federal government; conservatism rises when that government is crippled.
Republicans, in all their cynicism, are increasing their efforts to break the government.

EJ Dionne in the Washington Post has a somewhat different take.  Obama is finally done waiting.  Done waiting for Boehner to get control of his caucus.  Done waiting for McConnell to come to the table.  And now we folks who put our faith in Obama might finally get our reward in the form of promised action. Dionne observes:

Yes, Washington may again be engulfed in partisan warfare. But at least this time, it will be over things that are actually happening.

The animal mind: why real elephants don't do "bowling alone"

The elephant version is not doing "pulling alone."  Elephants conserve social capital. We do not.

My first publication in the journal Science as a grad student was about animal cognitive capacities.  In the last course I taught before my retirement 36 years later, an undergraduate honors seminar on comparative cognition (aka "the animal mind"), I discovered how far the field of animal cognition had come.  Vox.com has an intriguing set of observations, some from controlled experiments, on cognitive capacities of various nonhumans, like crows and chimpanzees.

Here is an example from Vox.com: "Elephants can cooperate and show empathy."  

... levels of coordination have been observed in controlled experiments. In one, pairs of elephants quickly learned to pull on a rope at the same time to get a treat — and not to pull alone, as that would have ruined the chance of getting it.

Elephants cooperating.  Would only that be true of GOPlins.  

But note: the experiment was structured to reward cooperation.  Our economy is not.

All together now ... raise your glass ... if you think drinking bourbon will bond Obama and McConnell

From TPM about the "bourbon summit" spoof on Saturday Night Live.

Saturday Night Live on Saturday imagined a "bourbon summit" between President Obama and new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
The two prove that with a drink or nine they can certainly get along, even though they still can't actually work together.
Though they immediately disagree on immigration, by drink four, the two prank call Hillary Clinton.
And after drink six, McConnell marvels that the U.S. has a black president.
"I mean, you ever think about that, a black U.S. president with this country’s history? No one would have thought that," McConnell says in the skit.
"And no one would have ever thought that the Senate Majority Leader would be a redneck who looks like he lost his lips in a fire," Obama quips back.
After nine drinks, Michelle Obama comes along to shut the party down.

All of which goes to show you: SNL is going strong.

(Some might think this is over the top for Scriber.  Not so.  Consider this video clip explaining internet neutrality by porn stars.  You are warned.)