Thursday, February 19, 2015

MUY Ficticio: #AZLeg panel votes to have school children not learn what other U.S. kids learn

The caps stand for Make Up Your Facts. Or, loosely in Spanish, very false. That's what Republicans want for our school children. Today's Daily Star carries a report by Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services: the House Education Committee does not want our children learning the same stuff that kids in other states learn. You know, stuff like numbers. Other educational fundamentals are on the block. Science. History. Civics.

The House Education Committee voted 5-2 along party lines to block the state Board of Education from implementing the standards developed in part by the National Governors Association.

The Republican-backed HB 2190 also makes it illegal for the board to adopt standards for college and career readiness that are "substantially similar to standards or assessments used by 20 or more other states."

...

Rep. Doug Coleman, R-Apache Junction ... worried that the restrictions in HB 2190 would preclude Arizona from some common-sense goals, like saying first-graders should learn their numbers, simply because 20 other states have the same standards.

This guy, a Republican, gets it. Or does he?

But he agreed to go along with other Republicans to have further discussion of the issue.

WTF? I guess you have to go along to get along. No discussion is needed. This is a damn bad piece of Tea Potty tom foolery.

AZ is not just crAZy. It's well on its way to becoming an Idiocracy.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

crAZy makes national news ... again

Our beloved state once again is featured in national news in two articles in the NY Times.

Topic #1: Health care for children

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is up for reauthorization in Congress. An op-ed in the NY Times, authored by Hilary Clinton (D) and Bill Frist (R) makes the case.

NO child in America should be denied the chance to see a doctor when he or she needs one — but if Congress doesn’t act soon, that’s exactly what might happen.

We already know what happens when CHIP is no longer an option for families. According to a recent report from the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, as many as 14,000 children in Arizona lost their health insurance after 2010, when it became the only state to drop CHIP.

We don’t want to see the same thing happen across the country. If CHIP is not reauthorized, more families will be hit with higher costs. As many as two million children could lose coverage altogether. Millions more will have fewer health care benefits and much higher out-of-pocket costs, threatening access to needed health services. And because families without adequate insurance often miss out on preventive care and instead receive more expensive treatment in hospital emergency rooms, all of us will be likely to end up paying part of the bill.

While reauthorization is not due until the end of September, Congress needs to act now. With more than four-fifths of state legislatures adjourning by the end of June, lack of action and clarity from Washington by then will make budgeting and planning virtually impossible.

Or maybe this makes no difference in a state in which health, education, and welfare are dirty words for GOPlin legislators.

h/t Michele Manos

Topic #2: Diane Douglas' fight with Gov. Ducey and the state Board of Education

The Times picked up on the Douglas vs. everyone else battle in this story.

Diane M. Douglas, a Republican, was elected state schools superintendent in Arizona after vowing to repeal the Common Core, a set of reading and math standards intended to guide teachers from kindergarten through high school graduation.

This week, soon after taking office, she fired two civil servants at the state’s Board of Education, saying they were "liberal staff who have publicly stated they will block all efforts to repeal or change Common Core."

But the newly elected Republican governor, Doug Ducey, promptly said that Ms. Douglas did not have the power to fire them — setting off a battle over control of the board and the state’s schools.

At a meeting on Friday, the Board of Education voted to demand that the Department of Education restore the staff members’ access to the facilities they had been escorted from earlier in the week.

In Scriber's view, no matter who wins this battle, AZ schools and AZ children lose. The schools' main advocate committed the political equivalent of Hara kiri. The likely victorious Governor is against fully funding the schools. It's like Joni Ernst, the Iowa pig farmer, came to AZ and performed her surgery on the Superintendent of Public Instruction - on the Supe's demand.

h/t Sherry Moreau

Editorial boards slam Diane Douglas

Scriber doesn't see much out there in the printed news or blogs in favor of what Douglas has done in less than two months in office. For example, here's a link to the editorial in today's Daily Star. They conclude:

Arizona children need an effective and collaborative advocate in the state superintendent’s office. Douglas’ reckless and amateur approach alienates the public, lawmakers, the governor, educators and the Board of Education and is a clear detriment to the students she’s supposed to serve.

All that was perfectly predictable from the public record aired during the campaign.

ARS 15-203A: Why Douglas will lose her fight with the Board and the Gov.

Quoting from Arizona Revised Statutes on the duties and responsibilities of the state Board of Education:

5. Subject to title 41, chapter 4, article 4, employ staff on the recommendation of the superintendent of public instruction.

6. Prescribe the duties of its employees if not prescribed by statute.

7. Delegate to the superintendent of public instruction the execution of board policies and rules.

8. Recommend to the legislature changes or additions to the statutes pertaining to schools.

The Board does these things, not the Superintendent. The Superintendent is but one member of the Board. What is there here that she does not get? She has broken the law and should get the boot in July.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Update: Dynamite Douglas vs. Arizona state Board of education.

Douglas just got slapped down by the Board which voted, 7 to 1, to instruct her to keep the staffers she tried to fire. The Board said what she did was illegal. But hold on, podner, she ain't giving up yet. She's going to lawyer-up. Question is what will happen Tuesday morning when the work week resumes. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here's the chronicle of events from the AZ Daily Star.

Dicey Ducey vs. Dynamite Douglas: Round 2

Just to keep the pot boiling ...

Douglas seems to be at war with everybody and everything. She is fulfilling her promise to destroy Common Core. She has overstepped her authority in firing education board staff (apparently just for doing their job as employees of the board). Now she has dissed the Gov.

I must apologize to my readers. I really thought that Douglas' lack of any meaningful experience would result in her being a nebbish in her new post. I was wrong. She is on the warpath even with members of her own party. She has proved to be quite skilled at making political enemies. I totally misjudged how lack of rational thinking amplifies ideological blunders.

Here is an extended summary from azcentral.com.

And The Republic editors were pretty damning in their analysis.

It is one thing for an elected official to ardently defend and advance the issues she believes carried her into office. It is another matter to declare war on pretty much everyone around you out of petulance and pique.

Since the general election began, Douglas critics have characterized her as combative, reclusive and politically tin-eared. She just proved them understated and generous. This political fight likely will not end well for Douglas or the interests of Arizona's public-school students.

Perhaps the kindest thing the citizens of AZ could do at this point is recall Douglas. It would be like educational euthanasia.

On the other hand, consider the specter of Douglas hanging in there "twisting slowly, slowly in the wind". ("The phrase [from John Erlichman] evokes the imagery of a corpse dangling from the gallows. Many other writers used the imagery before Watergate, but Erlichman supplied the exact wording for the catch phrase." Quote from wordorigins.org.)

I think whatever deity you do not believe in (but whom you evoke in exhortations anyway) you should ask to keep Douglas on her job with a new enemy made every day for the next four years.

Legislative lookout: Gun nuts are at it again with HB2320

Which is resurrected after Jan Brewer's veto. It OK's carrying of guns in all public buildings unless the buildings are equipped with metal detectors -- etc. -- you know what the gun toters want but here is the inserted language anyway.

2. A PERSON WHO IS IN A PUBLIC ESTABLISHMENT OTHER THAN A VEHICLE OR CRAFT OR AT A PUBLIC EVENT AND WHO POSSESSES A VALID PERMIT ISSUED PURSUANT TO SECTION 13‑3112. THIS PARAGRAPH DOES NOT APPLY TO A PUBLIC ESTABLISHMENT OR PUBLIC EVENT THAT HAS SECURITY PERSONNEL AND ELECTRONIC WEAPONS SCREENING DEVICES IN PLACE AT EACH ENTRANCE TO THE PUBLIC ESTABLISHMENT OR PUBLIC EVENT OR THAT HAS SECURITY PERSONNEL ELECTRONICALLY SCREEN EACH PERSON WHO ENTERS THE PUBLIC ESTABLISHMENT OR PUBLIC EVENT TO DETERMINE IF THE PERSON IS CARRYING A DEADLY WEAPON AND THE SECURITY PERSONNEL REQUIRE EACH PERSON WHO IS CARRYING A DEADLY WEAPON TO LEAVE THE WEAPON IN POSSESSION OF THE SECURITY PERSONNEL PURSUANT TO SECTION 13-3102.01 WHILE THE PERSON IS IN THE PUBLIC ESTABLISHMENT OR AT A PUBLIC EVENT. THIS PARAGRAPH DOES NOT LIMIT, RESTRICT OR PROHIBIT THE EXISTING RIGHTS OF A PRIVATE PROPERTY OWNER, PRIVATE TENANT, PRIVATE EMPLOYER OR PRIVATE BUSINESS ENTITY.

AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona has a review complete with a tutorial on the Constitution.

The links to various actions on the bill are here.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Can Dicey Ducey Dodge Difficult Decisions?

Nope. He's already fighting a battle with Diane Douglas over her firing of state board of education staffers. And he will be facing more doo-doo over bills coming out of the lege - one on transparency and a slew of them on federalism. Where he stands on the latter matter is mysterious. On the one hand he claims to want AZ out of the litigation game but then budgets $1 million for the AG to fight with the feds. See Tim Steller's column in the AZ Daily Star and the two following posts below.

Daily Kos: "Arizona's idiot legislature doesn't want you to watch their idiocy"

Daily Kos picks up the story on the idiocy in crAZy. Dicey's removal of visitor logs is just one example of the GOPlins' attempts to make government less transparent. SB1435 - redefining meetings to not cover legislative meetings -- is another.

Here is the original passage in the Arizona Revised Statutes ARS 38-431.

4. "Meeting" means the gathering, in person or through technological devices, of a quorum of members of a public body at which they discuss, propose or take legal action, including any deliberations by a quorum with respect to such action.

And here is the proposed change in SB1435.

5. "Meeting" means the gathering, in person or through technological devices, of a quorum of members of a public body at which action IS TAKEN. [Caps in SB1435.]

So we can watch the vote but all other discussions and deliberations are done in secret.

If you have not already contacted your legislator, now is the time to do it.

Dynamic Duo Discord: Douglas' firing of Board of Education staff overturned by Ducey, Douglas dumps on Ducey

BAM!!! Douglas fires Board of Education staff.

BAM BAM!!! Ducey says she does not have the legal authority.

BAM BAM BAM!!! Douglas accuses Ducey of dictatorship.

Let's all go to the lobby, Let's all go to the lobby, Let's all go to the lobby, to get ourselves ...

I'm thinking to move to Phoenix and set up a popcorn/candy/soft drink counter at the capitol. This is great theatre.

Here is the scoop from Arizona Capitol Times.

Gov. Doug Ducey today said education Superintendent Diane Douglas lacks the legal authority to fire two top State Board of Education staffers.

Why would she do that so soon?

Greg Miller, president of the Board of Education, told the Arizona Capitol Times that Douglas attempted to fire Thompson and Vazquez in an effort to halt the implementation of Common Core, the controversial K-12 learning standards that she campaigned against in 2014.

Here is more.

Douglas on Wednesday fired Executive Director Christine Thompson and Assistant Executive Director Sabrina Vazquez. But Ducey said he spoke with his legal counsel and determined that only the Board of Education has the authority to fire its employees.

"We don’t think anybody’s been fired," Ducey told reporters. "The board has the legal authority, and they have not yet acted. So that’s where we are."

Ducey added, "We’re going to follow the law in this administration."

Douglas issued a press release early this afternoon responding to Ducey’s determination that her decision to terminate Thompson and Vazquez is not legal.

"Governor Ducey apparently views himself as both governor and superintendent of schools. For someone who has spent so much time discussing the plain meaning of ‘or vs. and’ as a justification to deprive schools of hundreds of millions of dollars to give to his corporate cronies as tax cuts, I wish he would use the same precision in looking at the plain language of the law with regard to the powers and duties of the Superintendent of Public Instruction," she said in the release. (See the full statement below.)

State statute says that the Board of Education shall "employ staff on the recommendation of the Superintendent of Public Instruction."

The Governor’s Office also cited a 1985 legal opinion from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office stating that the statute gives the board the power to dismiss its employees.

"In the case of employees of the board, the hiring recommendations of the superintendent of public instruction are subject to the final approval of the board. The power of appointment likewise extends to the power to dismiss," the opinion read.

Read the full article here or link from the Politics UNCUFFED Facebook page (h/t Julie Erfle) or check out the AZ Daily Star -- all have the same stuff.

BTW, I'm betting on Ducey winning this one. Douglas needs to do her homework and pick her battles. What comes to mind? How about the matter of school funding?

Preview of the AZ redistricting case

The case is scheduled to be heard by SCOTUS on March 2nd. A total of 16 briefs have been filed by various groups: 14 friendly to the AZ Independent Redistricting Commission and 2 favoring AZ legislators. Each of the briefs is summarized in the preview from the Brennan Center for Justice (NYU School of Law). Here is the issue:

This term, the Supreme Court takes up the issue of what the Constitution’s Elections Clause means when it says that the "Times, Places, and Manner of holding Elections . . . shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof." (Article I, sec. 4)

Granted, I am no lawyer, but I do not see why SCOTUS is even involved in this. "Times, Places, and Manner" don't seem to address in any way a citizens commission impaneled to draw maps.

Each of the summaries in the preview are short and readable.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Dicey Ducey Dodges public disdain - visitor log replaced

Yesterday I noted that Scriber received a report that Dicey had reinstated the visitors log in the Executive Tower. My source says she heard it on NPR. That's now confirmed in a press conference yesterday afternoon. Here is an email report from Robbie Sherwood at ProgressNow Arizona.

Score one for government transparency!

After Arizonans like you voiced outrage over the removal of the visitor's log from the Executive Tower, Gov. Doug Ducey has relented and reversed course. During a press event this afternoon, reporters noted that the visitors log had been returned. Signing in is still optional (it shouldn't be), but this is a step back toward government transparency.

Scriber agrees - sign-ins should be mandatory.

ProgressNow Arizona was the first to widely report the disappearance of the logs after The Capitol Times noted it in its subscription-only Yellowsheet. Dozens of readers responded and called Ducey to demand an end to government secrecy. Thank you!

This is a test. Check all correct answers. (a) Dicey originally scrapped the log because of a desire for more efficient government. (b) He scrapped the log to hide his dark money visitors. (c) Dicey relented out of a profound sense of civic duty. (d) Dicey relented because of public pressure.

Sherwood again, calling for public pressure on the AZ Senate to kill the anti-open-meeting bill.

Now it's time to call your legislators and demand that they kill Sen. Sylvia Allen's Senate Bill 1435, which would gut Arizona's open meeting law. Open government is good government.

"Jon Stewart Says He Is Leaving ‘Daily Show’"

This is a breaking news item from NY Times.

Jon Stewart, the comedian who made Comedy Central’s "The Daily Show" a nightly home for sharp-edged political satire and up-to-the-moment commentary on the news, said on Tuesday that he planned to leave the program.

Mr. Stewart made the announcement on Tuesday’s episode. His departure was confirmed by the channel, which said in a statement, "Jon will remain at the helm of ‘The Daily Show’ until later this year."

How sad. There is a generation who grew up getting their news from The Daily Show. If you can define "growing up" as a transition from 60 to 70, count me in. The lame-stream media sucked so my grad student talked me into getting my information from Comedy Central.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dicey Ducey Dodges Disclosure of visitors

The report ran on the front page of yesterday's AZ Daily Star.

Who visits the Arizona governor and his administration will no longer be an open book.

Gov. Doug Ducey has done away with maintaining visitor logs, a practice used by the last three governors. While visitors are not required to sign in, the logs offer a trail of lobbyists, government officials and others who spend time at the Governor's Office.

Ducey said the logs don't give a complete picture anyway because they are voluntary, the Arizona Capitol Times reported (http://bit.ly/1Iw4erZ).

"Our review said that those logs were incomplete and inaccurate," Ducey said at a recent news conference. "So we didn't want to present something that was incomplete and inaccurate."

Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said no logs means a savings on paperwork and better efficiency for the office. But he did not know if the administration had any internal strategy for monitoring visitors to the state capitol's Executive Tower.

Saving on paperwork? Oh, please. What a load of crapinato. Let me suggest such a strategy. Install an electronic touch pad which visitors use to log in. Make the system transparent by posting it to the web updated daily. And make visitor sign-ins mandatory. That would solve the accuracy problem our good Gov. worries about and also address the concerns of transparency advocates.

Advocates of transparency in government disagree with the decision [to eliminate the logs]. Attorney Dan Barr of the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona said the lack of a log decreases transparency. It's essential for the public to know about anyone who is visiting with a gubernatorial administration, he added.

... Barr said the decision is especially questionable considering Ducey received money from anonymous contributors through independent expenditure groups in last year's election.

Or, shall we say, the dark money guys can get access to Dicey without anyone knowing. Why else would Dicey darken the logs when an obvious alternative is available. Oh, pardon me. I can feel it coming. A mandatory sign-in system would add to the regulatory burden on the AZ citizenry. So getting rid of the logs is a service to the public.

For more on the GOPlins' preference for lurking in the dark, see my previous post from Feb. 8 and AZBlueMeanie's post at Blog for Arizona today. Meanie and Scriber concur on the simple solution to Dicey's dilemma (making sign-ins mandatory). Goes to show you - great minds think alike.

BTW - David Safier (Tucson Weekly) has a good post on Dicey's PR guy, Daniel Scarpinato. Scarpinato has been around for a while in GOP circles and now is helping Dicey find his way in The World According to GORP. A sample: "It's nice to have Scarpinato back in Arizona. So many ridiculous statements, so little time."

BTW#2: One of Scribers' readers reports hearing an NPR story claiming that Dicey is ducking the flak by reversing course and reinstating the log a while back. Scriber has no confirmation at publication time but will keep you posted. Any link to said story will be appreciated with 15 seconds of fame.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Tucson doctor group aims to make AZ number 1 ... in measles

This is the same group of right-wing, goofball MDs who were out in front opposing Affordable Care. If you care about public health, this is a must read. Here are snippets from the front page report by the AZ Daily Star.

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a small group of doctors known for a skepticism of government, last week issued a news release opposing mandatory vaccination and raising questions about vaccine safety.

The Tucson-based group, which was founded in 1943, in that same release makes a link between autism and the measles vaccine, which is called MMR (measles, mumps and rubella).

The information from the group and its leader, Tucson physician Dr. Jane Orient, ignores evidence-based medicine, public health officials warn. Orient could not be reached for comment last week.

"I don’t believe that Dr. Orient’s comments are based on the best understanding of public health science. She’s wrong," Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Francisco Garcia said.

And when the media covers the issue and puts one member of Orient’s group in a news story alongside one person supporting evidence-based medicine, it creates false balance, those same experts say.

Hey, Daily Star reporter: it DOES create false balance and when you do it, you are guilty of journalistic malpractice. At least the Star reported the actual imbalance favoring medical science.

"When Dr. Orient makes her comments and you have just one person respond, it looks like the two opinions are equivalent and they’re not," said Beth Jacobs, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Arizona’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

"What would be equivalent is to have her comment and the comment of a million doctors, nurses and epidemiologists who understand vaccination. That’s what would give the opinions equal balance."

This is a big deal for AZ. We are one of states allowing parents to opt out of vaccinations because of "personal belief". The article contains statistics on the effectiveness of measles vaccinations but also indicates what may be in store for AZ kids.

Arizona is one of 20 states that allow what’s called a "personal-belief" exemption from vaccines that are otherwise required for children to attend school. While the number of parents choosing personal-belief exemptions remains small, it has lately become a growing group.

The percentage of preschoolers statewide with nonmedical vaccine exemptions has quadrupled since 2000, for example. It’s now at 4.1 percent.

And state data show that 9.1 percent of all Arizona kindergartners who attend charter schools also have personal-belief exemptions from getting vaccinated.

So those stats suggest that there is a chance for AZ to finally reach first place at something - number of measles cases.

What's in store at the AZ lege this week

Compiled by Craig McDermott at Blog for Arizona. Looming looney tunes as usual.

Cartoons for the week - measles, mumps, mad men, and more

From AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona

Sunday, February 8, 2015

SB1435: Evidence that Republicans do not believe in democracy

What's the evidence? The answer is in two parts. First is the introduction of a bill, SB1435, that would effectively destroy the state's open meeting law. Here is the story from the Sierra Vista Herald.

The issue we’re writing about today is as close to an assault on American freedoms as those individuals our military is asked to seek and eliminate.

Last week will be remembered as the sounding bell for public freedom of information in Arizona. With the introduction of a bill at the State Capitol by a Republican legislator endorsing the effective elimination of the Open Meetings Law. The law as it was adopted in 1962, intended to provide a balance between our elected representatives and the transparency and public participation in which decisions are made. This new legislation, SB 1435, creates the opportunity for absolute power, allowing the decision making process and the vital discussion leading up to it, shuttered from public view.

Arizona bleeds so much Republican red that the party controls the state house like Apple owns the computer market. That kind of authority, with dominating majorities in every committee, office and commission in the state, is a good way to concentrate power.

... Earlier this month, Republicans closed the doors to the party caucus. House Rule 36 gets in the way of "family business," as Scottsdale Rep. John Allen explained to an angry Phoenix media last month.

Now State Sen. Sylvia Allen of Snowflake has introduced legislation, SB 1435, to render the state’s Open Meeting Law useless.

The impact of this bill across the state would be chilling. Public discourse on every issue that involves every resident could be decided behind closed doors, with no public notice or input. Soldiers serve in our military to defend our liberties and uphold the fundamental principles of our democracy, which includes an open government that is accountable its citizens.

Public meetings without significant advance public notice, opportunity for the public to speak, with complete and accurate reporting, is an invitation to corruption, plain and simple. Without accountability to the public, there is no accountability — a basic hallmark of America.

The second part of the evidence will be when, or even if, this travesty is brought to a vote. How will our elected legislators handle this one?

Mark the first days of February, 2015, as the warning bell. We are now watching the Republican Party of Arizona, the dominant majority of our State Capitol, decide whether there is good reason to consider the merits of the legislation offered by Sen. Allen. Now, it’s just a political game in a lion’s den.

Not voting for this crap is a low bar. Any legislator and every newspaper editor should be clamoring for this bill's withdrawal.

Silence is the enemy. We share a responsibility to stand up and show we will not stand for closed public meetings. We will not be quiet and lazy, we will write, speak, talk and ring the bells to let people know that we treasure the responsibility of citizenship and having elected officials work for the people not themselves.

Keep those meeting doors open and ring those church bells by letting your representatives know ‘The people’s business’ is not to be done behind closed doors and without citizen participation.

Scriber will track this one. You should too.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Update on the case of Wile E. Coyote v. Predator Masters

Check out David Fitzsimmons' excellent report here. Might as well lead today with a laugh. Not much else that is funny in AZ this morning.

AZ legislative actions promoting gold, guns, and greed ...

... and more looney tunes from our GOPlins in Phoenix. Let's make gold our legal tender. Let's have guns in every public place. Let's give more tax breaks to the rich. There is no end to the legislative lunacy in The World According to GORP.

AZBlueMeanie reports here and here on what our lege is up to - and they have a bill now that would let them concoct their crAZiness in secrecy.

GOPlins in Congress show American how well they govern

Sure. And I have a bridge to nowhere to sell you. These guys and their useless votes go nowhere but keep trying endlessly. They make John McCain sound reasonable! Check out Eugene Robinson's column at the Washington Post. He suggests an alternative strategy. Snippets follow.

Let me suggest a different approach. First, Republicans must cross a big hurdle: acknowledging that with Democrats able to block legislation in the Senate and Obama still resident in the White House, passing legislation will require compromise. Once you get beyond that, the rest is easy.

No, you can’t repeal Obamacare, but you might be able to make it work better for your constituents. No, you can’t undo Obama’s immigration actions without passing legislation that the Senate and the president find acceptable. No, you can’t hijack funding for a crucial government agency without suffering political damage — and ultimately folding because you don’t have the cards.

But will they do it? I think Robinson and I share pessimism.

The GOP apparently hopes the display of juvenile behavior we’re witnessing will inspire voters to give the party even more power in 2016 by electing a Republican president. Good luck with that.

SCOTUS imperiled by King v. Burwell

So goes a legal analysis by Linda Greenhouse writing in the NY Times (covered by AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona). Here are snippets.

In the first Affordable Care Act case three years ago, the Supreme Court had to decide whether Congress had the power, under the Commerce Clause or some other source of authority, to require individuals to buy health insurance. It was a question that went directly to the structure of American government and the allocation of power within the federal system.

The court very nearly got the answer wrong with an exceedingly narrow reading of Congress’s commerce power. As everyone remembers, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., himself a member of the anti-Commerce Clause five, saved the day by declaring that the penalty for not complying with the individual mandate was actually a tax, properly imposed under Congress’s tax power.

... the new Affordable Care Act case, King v. Burwell, to be argued four weeks from now, is different, a case of statutory, not constitutional, interpretation. The court has permitted itself to be recruited into the front lines of a partisan war. Not only the Affordable Care Act but the court itself is in peril as a result.

At the invitation of a group of people determined to render the Affordable Care Act unworkable (the nominal plaintiffs are four Virginia residents who can’t afford health insurance but who want to be declared ineligible for the federal tax subsidies that would make insurance affordable for them), the justices have agreed to decide whether the statute as written in fact refutes one of the several titles that Congress gave it: "Quality, Affordable Health Care for All Americans."

If the Supreme Court agrees with the challengers, more than seven million people who bought their insurance in the 34 states where the federal government set up the marketplaces, known as exchanges, will lose their tax subsidies. The market for affordable individual health insurance will collapse in the face of shrinking numbers of insured people and skyrocketing premiums, the very "death spiral" that the Affordable Care Act was designed to prevent.

You should read the full analysis by Greenhouse, including a summary of and links to some of the briefs filed on behalf of the government here.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A proposal from epidemiology for curing vaccination skeptics with epistemology

Here is a NY Times op-ed from an epidemiologist suggesting an epistemological fix for parents who opt out of immunization - thus negating "herd immunity" and hence imperiling the greater good.

Epistemology is defined as "the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion." So he proposes going after those beliefs by informing parents and tightening exemption rules.

... even states like Arizona and Colorado that allow fairly broad exemptions can tweak their rules to make sure parents are as informed as possible — and to make the exemption process difficult.

They can require parents to write a letter elaborating on the reason their child should be exempt. They can require that the letter be notarized. They can insist that parents read and sign a form that discusses the risks of nonvaccination. Better yet, they should mandate in-person counseling so that the decision not to vaccinate is truly informed.

Think about this one. If anti-abortion types want pre-abortion counseling, they should be on board with pre-exemption counseling, right?

The case for tightening exemption rules continues:

States with easy procedures for obtaining exemptions have higher rates of nonmedical exemptions — and, more important, higher rates of vaccine-preventable diseases. In a 2006 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, for example, we documented that states with easy procedures for granting nonmedical exemptions had approximately 50 percent higher rates of whooping cough.

In a 2012 study, which my colleagues and I published in The New England Journal of Medicine, nonmedical exemption rates were 2.3 times higher in states with easy administrative policies for granting exemptions (like Connecticut, Missouri and Wisconsin) than in states with difficult policies (like Florida, Minnesota and Texas). Moreover, the annual rate of increase in nonmedical exemptions was about 60 percent higher in states with easy exemption policies compared with states with difficult policies.

These practices will cost taxpayers money. But they will be more effective, in the long run, than condemning vaccine skeptics as ignorant and irresponsible. The goal should be to make the number of parents who decide to seek exemptions — and follow through with it — as small as possible. Given the high costs of controlling disease outbreaks, including the current rise in measles, it might be reasonable to tax parents who seek exemptions to recover some of the cost.

All democratic societies must try to balance the rights and views of a variety of constituencies. Parents of children who are too ill for vaccination should of course be granted an exemption. Everyone else — no matter their belief — should face a high burden before being allowed to remove their children from the immunized herd.

IdiotsRUs Part 3: Watch Jon Stewart skewart Rand Paul and Chris{Chris[tie]} about measles

It is put in terms that the average mom will understand. But I wonder if that anti-vaccination mom will understand anything about public health (until her kid dies and then she will blame Obama). But see post above for a more optimistic approach.

View Stewart's clip here.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

IdiotsRUs part 2: Republican Senator wants to eliminate hand-washing regs for restaurants

h/t Blog for Arizona for this story from The District Sentinel.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said Monday that he’s okay with the idea of service industry workers returning to work without washing their hands after touching their unmentionables, as long as customers are made aware of the situation.

"I said: ‘As a matter of fact, I think it’s one that I can [use to] illustrate the point,’" he remarked. "I said: ‘I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says "We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom,"’" he recalled, as the audience chuckled. "The market will take care of that.’"

Audience! This is not funny.

"That’s the sort of mentality that we need to have to reduce the regulatory burden on this country," he added. "We’re one of the most regulated nations in the history of the planet."

No, Sen. Tillis, that's the sort of mentality that is a threat to public health and safety.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

IdiotsRUs: How personal beliefs create epidemics

Republican (and likely 2016 candidate for President) Chris Christie has two minds (loosely speaking) about vaccination in the face of the measles outbreak (reported by DailyKos in its Feb 23 email). Quoting from a Washington Post blog:

"I understand that there are families that, in some cases, are concerned about the effect of vaccinations," Obama said. "The science is, you know, pretty indisputable. We’ve looked at this again and again. There is every reason to get vaccinated, but there aren’t reasons to not."

Christie, however, said "there has to be a balance and it depends on what the vaccine is, what the disease type is, and all the rest." He added, "Not every vaccine is created equal and not every disease type is as great a public health threat as others."

But then Christie backtracked.

A spokesman for Chris Christie clarified the governor’s comments on vaccines. "To be clear: The Governor believes vaccines are an important public health protection and with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated. At the same time different states require different degrees of vaccination, which is why he was calling for balance in which ones government should mandate," he said.

What the hell does all that mean? So different states can decide how bad measles is? Polio? Whooping cough? "kids should be vaccinated"? What does "should be" mean? Who decides?

It does get worse. Here is a link to a NY Times video really worth watching. In 10 minutes you learn how the media is complicit with anti-vaccination types in perpetuating false balance pitting scientific consensus against idiosyncratic anecdotes. As the video shows, this anti-science does not stop at the level of states - it extends to individual parents. For instance, here in crAZy we have statues on the books allowing parents to withhold vaccinations of their children depending on their personal beliefs. (Really. Never mind the science. My kid's not getting poked.) Check that video. There is an actress Jennie McCarthy claiming that her "science" is her child. And some of that comes from a thoroughly debunked report in the UK about the relation between vaccinations and autism. The report was retracted and the author lost his medical license. But that does not stop the anti-vaccination bunch.

There is a deeper and more alarming angle to all this. The anti-science rampant now in the US was exposed 10 years ago by Charles Pierce. He wrote a longish essay for Esquire magazine "GREETINGS FROM IDIOT AMERICA". What he had to say then is true today

...It is a long way from Jefferson's observatory and Franklin's kite to George W. Bush, in an interview in 2005, suggesting that intelligent design be taught alongside the theory of evolution in the nation's science classes. "Both sides ought to be properly taught," said the president, "so people can understand what the debate is about."

If we have abdicated our birthright to scientific progress, we have done so by moving the debate into the realm of political and cultural argument, where we all feel more confident, because it is there that the Gut rules. Held to this standard, any scientific theory is rendered mere opinion. Scientific fact is no more immutable than a polling sample. This is how there's a "debate" over the very existence of global warming, even though the preponderance of fact among those who actually have studied the phenomenon renders the "debate" quite silly. The debate is about making people feel better about driving SUVs. The debate is less about climatology than it is about guiltlessly topping off your tank and voting in tax incentives for oil companies.

The "debate," of course, is nothing of the sort, because two sides are required for a debate. Nevertheless, the very notion of it is a measure of how scientific discourse, and the way the country educates itself, has slipped through lassitude and inattention across the border into Idiot America -- where fact is merely that which enough people believe, and truth is measured only by how fervently they believe it.

The rest of the world looks on in cockeyed wonder. The America of Franklin and Edison, of Fulton and Ford, of the Manhattan project and the Apollo program, the America of which Einstein wanted to be a part, seems to be enveloping itself in a curious fog behind which it's tying itself in knots over evolution, for pity's sake, and over the relative humanity of blastocysts versus the victims of Parkinson's disease.

Stephen Colbert called it "truthiness". Pierce calls it "the Gut."

In the place of expertise, we have elevated the Gut, and the Gut is a moron, as anyone who has ever tossed a golf club, punched a wall, or kicked an errant lawn mower knows. We occasionally dress up the Gut by calling it "common sense." The president's former advisor on medical ethics regularly refers to the "yuck factor." The Gut is common. It is democratic. It is the roiling repository of dark and ancient fears. Worst of all, the Gut is faith-based.

The Gut is the basis for the Great Premises of Idiot America. We hold these truths to be self-evident:

1) Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.

2) Anything can be true if somebody says it on television.

3) Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.

The intellectual rot goes beyond vaccinations. It runs through discourse about almost all public policies - climate change, for example. It has infected our political leaders and reduced our news outlets' reporting to a level on par with reporting a domestic, he-said-she-said, argument.

Idiot America was in its infancy when Pierce first wrote about it. It is rapidly maturing. That should scare the bejeezus out of every thinking citizen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

CAP is back: Get ready for 1062 part 2

The lege has been low key during the super bowl season. And the media has been rather kind to them. Now that the super bowl is out of town, it's sort of like taking the lid off a pressure cooker; all those pent-up urges will come steaming out. Or, perhaps the better metaphor would be sexual repression. Well, let's not continue along that line with its implied imagery.

One thing is for sure: the front women for the Crucible of Awful Proposals (aka Center for Arizona Policy), Cathi Herrod, is engineering legislation behind the scenes and getting the usual warm support from those legislators who would dictate social values in the name of small gummint. AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona has the story (quotes below from Meanie's source - newsobserver.com).

The meeting referenced below was lawmakers on the "Arizona Values Action Team" and attended by Herrod.

Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, who sponsored last year's Senate Bill 1062, heads the Arizona Values group. Yarbrough said the meeting was private, and he won't be carrying any of the proposed legislation in his new role as Senate majority leader.

"I hope we (introduce) pro-life legislation, pro-school choice legislation, pro-religious freedom legislation," Yarbrough said. "All that sound like great ideas to me."

Another Republican who attended the meeting was similarly circumspect about what legislation might be introduced.

"I don't have a list, and I don't know which bills are going to actually be (introduced), so I don't want to comment on other people's bills," said Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills. "These were a series of pro-life bills, and pro-school choice bills and family bills. Which I campaign on, which I was elected on and which I promote, which is why I go to these meetings."

So now you know what to expect in the days ahead. A big question is what Dicey Ducey will do to the Crucible's proposals when they hit his desk.

It remains to be seen how newly elected Gov. Doug Ducey will respond to any of the bills that pass. Ducey ran on a pro-business agenda, but Herrod was an early supporter of his campaign. The group is touting Ducey's planned attendance at the annual "CAP day at the Capitol" event next week.

Does that answer the question?

 

 

Bipartisan group files amicus brief with SCOTUS in favor of the AZ Redistricting Commission. Guess who signed ... and who did not.

Here is a report from The Ripon Advance via Google Alerts.

U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI) has teamed up with 19 of his House colleagues in submitting a bipartisan congressional amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court concerning a redistricting case about to come before the court, Ribble said Thursday.

The brief supports the idea that U.S. citizens have the right to choose how the federal election and redistricting processes will be conducted in their particular states.

"People coming together and solving problems on common ground is the essence of good government, and that is what we have seen with the citizens of Arizona in this case," Ribble said. "Gerrymandering that makes districts increasingly extreme on either side of the political spectrum ultimately hurts all Americans. When a district is so heavily liberal or conservative that the only competition for a seat occurs during the primary election, it can disenfranchise millions of voters."

The brief is centered on a current Supreme Court case originating in Arizona. That case, Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, is scheduled to begin oral arguments in March. The document makes several strong arguments in support of the constitutional rights of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

"I commend the people of Arizona for working toward a solution for this problem and hope that the Supreme Court will uphold their constitutional right to do so," Ribble said.

From Ribble's web site:

In supporting the constitutionality of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the amicus brief makes these arguments:

  • Congress has broad and express Constitutional authority to regulate the time, place, and manner of congressional elections,
  • For more than 170 years, Congress has done so in a way that supports the people of Arizona to form a redistricting commission.
  • Congress has in fact weighed in and has said in federal statute that states’ redistricting can be done by more than the State Legislature proper.
  • The use of an independent commission for redistricting is consistent with, and supports, core principles of federalism reflected in the Constitution and the Elections Clause itself, which seek to ensure a direct link between national representatives and the People.
  • The use of an independent commission is an important, democracy-promoting development that will help reduce negative effects of severe partisan gerrymandering.

And this, I think, is telling. Raul Grijalva was the only AZ Rep to sign on. Perhaps he was the only one asked. I am checking and will let you know. Here are the signators on the brief.

The amicus brief also was signed by U.S. Reps. Julia Brownley (D-CA), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Jim Cooper (D-TN), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Mark Meadows (R-NC), Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), David Price (D-NC), Tom Reed (R-NY), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

Steller to AZLEG: Try raising revenue instead of cutting, cutting, cutting, .... ad destructum.

But for reasons listed yesterday, it will not happen. Tim's column in the Daily Star is worth a read anyway.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Prop 108: In case you missed it ...

Here is the deal on Prop 108 from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona. Prop 108 is what lets the AZLEG get away with cutting everything and funding precious little. Meanie detects a media bias against talking about Prop 108.

Another education funding lawsuit is on its way

Lots of good stuff this morning at Blog for Arizona. Here is a summary of where things stand on [de]funding of public education by the AZLEG from AZBlueMeanie. Meanie makes the case for the unconstitutionality of the legislature's refusal to do its job (read raise revenue) and properly fund our schools.

... Our lawless Arizona legislature routinely violates two provisions of the Arizona Constitution out of ideological opposition to government, public education, and taxes:

Article XI, Section 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. The legislature shall provide for a system of common schools by which a free school shall be established and maintained in every school district for at least six months in each year, which school shall be open to all pupils between the ages of six and twenty-one years.

Article IX, Section 3: The legislature shall provide by law for an annual tax sufficient, with other sources of revenue, to defray the necessary ordinary expenses of the state for each fiscal year. And for the purpose of paying the state debt, if there be any, the legislature shall provide for levying an annual tax sufficient to pay the annual interest and the principal of such debt within twenty-five years from the final passage of the law creating the debt.

Our lawless Arizona legislature has for years been in violation of the Arizona Constitution because: (1) it is failing to provide for the cost of public education, and (2) it refuses to raise taxes sufficient "to defray the necessary ordinary expenses of the state for each fiscal year."

I would add a third constitutional violation: a judgment is an enforceable debt, and our lawless Arizona legislature’s refusal to comply with a lawful judgment of the Court on the specious ground that "we don’t have the money to pay it" (read: "we refuse to raise taxes to pay for it") is also a violation of Article IX, Section 3. Our lawless Arizona legislature is a deadbeat debtor.

Solving this problem is going to require the repeal of Prop. 108 (1992), the "Two-Thirds for Taxes" Amendment, Arizona Constitution Article 9, Section 22, as a necessary prerequisite to raising taxes sufficient "to defray the necessary ordinary expenses of the state for each fiscal year," as required by the Arizona Constitution.

Read Meanie's post for details on the new lawsuit.

 

Cartoons to prep you for the week ahead ...

... as if anything could while azleg is grinding out awful bills. Enjoy anyway. From AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

... and here is the week ahead in the legislature

courtesy of Craig McDermott at Blog for Arizona.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Will Obama and the GOP cut a budget deal?

Paul Waldman writing in the Washington Post's Plum Line thinks so. Perhaps the most compelling argument is that the GOPlins don't want to screw up their chances to take the White House in 2016. Blocking everything Obama wants would be a PR disaster for them. (Now you could counter-argue that they've done it before ...)

Guns don't kill people but toddlers do

Here is a second instance (that I know of) where a toddler found a pistol in the mother's purse and shot the mother. In this case, the bullet also got the father. Think of how this tragedy could have been prevented. According to current gun ownership dogma, if a sibling also had a gun ...

Good news: Five Republicans who don't lie about climate change

Bad news: Most talk shows achieve false balance by featuring other Republicans who do.

Here's a report in motherjones.com with a graphic showing which network shows are into false balance and which five Republicans tell the truth (albeit with debatable proposed solutions).

I think I will change my Sunday AM channel!

10 steps to blowing the right-wing mind

Here are 10 statements of fact that are counter to the right-wing noise machine (from alternet.org).

As a public service to those who find themselves inextricably cornered by aggressively ill-informed Republicans at work, on the train or at family gatherings, presented here are ten indisputably true facts that will seriously challenge a Republican’s worldview and probably blow a brain cell or two. At the very least, any one of these GOP-busters should stun and confuse them long enough for you to slip quietly away from a pointless debate and allow you to get on about your business.

1. The United States is not a Christian nation, and the Bible is not the cornerstone of our law.

2. The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a socialist.

3. The first president to propose national health insurance was a Republican.

4. Ronald Reagan once signed a bill legalizing abortion.

5. Reagan raised federal taxes eleven times.

6. Roe v. Wade was a bipartisan ruling made by a predominantly Republican-appointed Supreme Court.

7. The Federal Reserve System was a Republican invention.

8. The Environmental Protection Agency was, too.

9. Obama has increased government spending less than any president in at least a generation.

10. President Obama was not only born in the United States, his roots run deeper in American history than most people know.

Read the full article here to get the documentation for each statement.