Sunday, May 31, 2015

Watch Elizabeth Warren get madder'n hell

Better, she has a prescription for getting even. Here is the link to the video clip via Facebook.

"Liberal" media scandalizes Clintons but ignores Republican transgressions

Joe Conason write about two examples at creators.com. One is the business about Secretary of State emails.

Whenever a transgression against transparency is charged against the Clintons, whether real, alleged or invented, America's political media rise up in sustained outrage. From the offices of The New York Times Washington bureau to the Manhattan studio of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," journalists bitterly protest Hillary Clinton's erased emails and her family foundation's fundraising methods. And they will surely snap and snark about her "scandals" from now until Election Day.

Which, under present circumstances, might be justified — she happens to be running for president — except for one glaring problem. Very few in the press corps apply the same standards to any Republican politician.

Nobody will ever get to see the thousands of messages erased from the private email account used by former Secretary of State Colin Powell when he held that high office. He got rid of them and got away with it (as most likely did former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who implausibly claimed not to have used email, when the State Department asked for hers).

The same double standard applies to raising money. Clintons get nailed but the Bushes are off the hook. Check the column for more.

"Liberal" media? Not really.

(The column appeared in the GV News print edition but not on-line. Go figure.)

Iraq is an idea not a country

So opines Fareed Zakaria in his column in the Daily Star this morning.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter did misspeak with recent remarks that caused a firestorm in both Washington and Baghdad. He explained the Islamic State’s takeover of Ramadi by saying, "Iraqi forces showed no will to fight." He just forgot to complete the sentence by adding the words, "for Iraq."

It’s clear that there are many people willing to fight fiercely and bravely in that part of the world — just look at the levels of violence. The Kurds fight ferociously for Kurdistan. The Shiites have been fighting doggedly for their people. The Sunnis of the Islamic State are killing and dying for their cause. But nobody is willing to fight for Iraq. The problem really is not that Iraq’s army has collapsed. It’s that Iraq has collapsed.

The vast majority of Sunnis oppose the Islamic State and flee every place it seizes. But they cannot find towns where they can resettle. The ethnic cleansing of Iraq — with Shiites moving to Shiite areas, and Kurds and Sunnis doing the same — began with the civil war in 2006, but has accelerated dramatically. Even Baghdad, which was a diverse and mixed city, has been segregated into sectarian ethnic enclaves.

Iraq today no longer exists. In 2008, 80 percent of those polled said they were "Iraqi above all." Today that number is 40 percent. The Kurds have taken every opportunity to further enhance their already considerable autonomy. I recently asked a Kurdish politician how many Kurds would support independence for their provinces. He replied, "Somewhere between 99 percent and 100 percent." Twelve years after Saddam Hussein’s fall, the Kurds and the Baghdad government still cannot agree on a deal to share oil revenues.

The problem, really, is that under the surface Iraq never existed. It was never more than a collection of religious and ethnic groups assembled by European colonial powers. And that undermines US policies. It also is a warning against calls for more military intervention to "save Iraq".

Washington can provide aid, training, arms, air power — even troops. But it cannot hold together a nation that is falling apart.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The future of AZ: A dry(er) heat

After denial comes acceptance. Here is David Fitzsimmons' peek at the future of AZ. No hope but a lot of (climate) change.

It's taxes, Toto!

Maybe. Kansas, the role model for crAZy, is facing the need to raise taxes (reports the NY Times). But it is not clear what the Kansas idioture will do. They still have the Tea Potty types against any taxes, and some other GOPlins wanting to protect the rich by using sales taxes to balance their budget. And then there is the gaggle of "board room" Republican zealots who believe, with something akin to religious fervor, that having cut their state services to the bone all they have to do is wait it out and economic growth will come their way. It may not be taxes, Toto, but it is looney tunes.

Martin O'Malley takes the moral high ground: Messaging about and acting like "compassionate, and generous, and caring people"

John Nichols at The Nation reviews O'Malley's brand of moral politics and the actions that followed from it. Here are a couple of examples.

Like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, O'Malley recognizes that Democrats must claim some moral high ground—rather than simply positioning themselves as savvy technocrats—to prevail in presidential politics. More importantly, O'Malley recognizes that claiming that moral high ground involves taking risks and doing the right thing even when it is not necessarily popular.

On marital rights

[A Roman Catholic,] he is pro-choice and he has been a leading advocate of marriage equality; when Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O'Brien urged the governor to oppose marriage equality, O'Malley replied, "I do not presume, nor would I ever presume as governor, to question or infringe upon your freedom to define, to preach about, and to administer the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church. But on the public issue of granting equal civil marital rights to same-sex couples, you and I disagree." O'Malley signed the law and then defended it when opponents sought unsuccessfully to overturn the measure with a statewide referendum.

On Immigration

... O'Malley created a national stir last summer by speaking about immigration policy in smart, reasonable, and moral terms that put him at odds not merely with many other presidential contenders but with the Obama administration.

O'Malley's approach was not a radical one. But his emphasis on fairness and human dignity, as opposed to predictable political positioning, was refreshing. O'Malley did not deny the serious practical and political challenges that had arisen as thousands of children from Central America crossed into the United States in the spring and summer of 2014. He recognized that there were a lot of issues to be resolved with regard to the particular circumstances of the children—and with regard to broader need to reform the nation's ill-defined and frequently dysfunctional approach to immigration policy.

Yet, O'Malley never lost sight of the most important fact: The children who were entering the United States were children. They came, in many instances, as desperate refugees fleeing extreme violence, poverty, and dislocation in countries where the social fabric has been rapidly fraying because of destructive globalization schemes, corruption, and a horrific maldistribution of wealth.

... he placed the debate in a moral context that was rooted in American historical experience. In media interviews, the governor calmly explained, "I believe that it is contrary to everything that we stand for as a people to try to summarily send [refugees] back to death, whether it's in famine; death whether it's in the middle of the ocean; death whether it's in a war-torn area or death in a place where gangs are the greatest threat to stability and the rule of law and democratic institutions in this hemisphere."

On his election prospects

O'Malley sees what he thinks is an opening and he is making his move. More power to him. The race for the 2016 Democratic nomination needs contenders who are willing to push the limits in the debates and in the fight for the heart and soul of the party. Martin O'Malley brings some needed vision, and needed language, to the competition. He should be treated seriously, because of his own record and his own ideas, and because of his party's history of rejecting front-runners and embracing campaigns that speak a moral-duty language. O'Malley says, "We are still capable of acting like the compassionate, and generous, and caring people our grandparents expected us to become and that our children need for us to be." That is a morals message, a values message, and it has appeal—not just with Democrats but with a lot of Americans who might vote Democratic.

Friday, May 29, 2015

"Rio Tinto": The latest in reality westerns set in Arizona

Subtitle: Ambush at Oak Flat.

Starring John (Wayne) McCain and Jeff (Chandler) Flake.

The NY Times has an op-ed about the land-swap giving Resolution Copper Mining Apache sacred land. Here are some select snippets.

Three hundred people, mostly Apache, marched 44 miles from tribal headquarters to begin this occupation on Feb. 9. The campground lies at the core of an ancient Apache holy place, where coming-of-age ceremonies, especially for girls, have been performed for many generations, along with traditional acorn gathering. It belongs to the public, under the multiple-use mandate of the Forest Service, and has had special protections since 1955, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower decreed the area closed to mining — which, like cattle grazing, is otherwise common in national forests — because of its cultural and natural value. President Richard M. Nixon’s Interior Department in 1971 renewed this ban.

Despite these protections, in December 2014, Congress promised to hand the title for Oak Flat over to a private, Australian-British mining concern. A fine-print rider trading away the Indian holy land was added at the last minute to the must-pass military spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act. By doing this, Congress has handed over a sacred Native American site to a foreign-owned company for what may be the first time in our nation’s history.

The swap — which will trade 5,300 acres of private parcels owned by the company to the Forest Service and give 2,400 acres including Oak Flat to Resolution so that it can mine the land without oversight — had been attempted multiple times by Arizona members of Congress on behalf of the company. (Among those involved was Rick Renzi, a former Republican representative who was sent to federal prison in February for three years for corruption related to earlier versions of the land-transfer deal.) It always failed in Congress because of lack of support. But this time was different. This time, the giveaway language was slipped onto the defense bill by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona at the 11th hour. The tactic was successful only because, like most last-minute riders, it bypassed public scrutiny.

It’s worth noting that Rio Tinto affiliates have been McCain campaign contributors, and that Mr. Flake, before he made it to Congress, was a paid lobbyist for Rio Tinto Rössing Uranium (a huge uranium mine in Namibia). Mr. McCain and others assert that the mining project will be a boost to the local economy, though it’s unclear how many of the 1,400 promised jobs would be local; a Superior-area miners’ group, in fact, opposes the swap on the basis that it won’t help the local people or economy. Rio Tinto, incidentally, has been called out in the past for environmental devastation.

The deal is an impressive new low in congressional corruption, unworthy of our country’s ideals no matter what side of the aisle you’re on. It’s exactly the kind of cynical maneuvering that has taught the electorate to disrespect politicians — a disdain for government that hurts everyone. If ever there was a time for Congress to prove its moral mettle to the public, this is that time. The rider should be repealed.

But it won't be. Think about the cowboys-and-indians genre. The cowboys always win.

If Oak Flat were a Christian holy site, or for that matter Jewish or Muslim, no senator who wished to remain in office would dare to sneak a backdoor deal for its destruction into a spending bill — no matter what mining-company profits or jobs might result. But this is Indian religion. Clearly the Arizona congressional delegation isn’t afraid of a couple of million conquered natives.

 

Green Valley resident lists worries about America

Mike Dant writes about his concerns and puzzlements in an op-ed in Wednesday's GV News. Here are some of them.

I’m an older guy. I love this nation, this state. But sometimes I have sincere concerns about us, about what defines us, about some of the directions we’re headed.

I worry that my country is the biggest producer/provider/seller of military weapons in the world. And then, in awful irony, they have been/are being used against us.

I grieve for the horrific numbers of former military people who commit suicide daily. I don’t understand how we can send our citizens to war and then not give them the excellent care they deserve when they come back home emotionally and physically scarred.

I don’t understand why so many influential people don’t acknowledge the clear signs of climate change: earlier migrations, earlier flower blooming, rapidly melting polar ice, low-lying islands in danger of disappearing. I don’t understand why some politicians who could help won’t even use the term.

I don’t understand that, given the clear evidence of the economic disparity between the rich and the rest, politicians only talk; they don’t act.

I think Mike understands just fine.

The real plot to overthrow FDR's America

Ten years ago, in 2005, Daily Kos published a report on the attempted Fascist coup during the 1930s. The plot really happened, the press suppressed the story, and no one was ever prosecuted. Big business was in it up to it's neck and the attempted coup was revealed by a General of the US Marines. It became the stimulus for a best selling alternative history novel by Phillip Roth, The Plot Against America. Both Roth's fictional account and the factual Daily Kos report are well worth reading.

The right wingers in America learned from various coup attempts that failed. Most do. For a takeover to succeed, it needs to have the support of a sizable number of the people and that takes time to develop. The right wingers have played a long game slowly taking control of America by campaigns of disinformation delivered via spineless media and supported by lots and lots of money. The real plot to overthrow FDR's America has been underway for the better part of the last half century.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Weber's Law applied to politics: Why another GOP candidate for President is no big deal

A well known principle of the branch of Psychology known as Psychophysics, Weber's Law, "states that the ratio of the increment threshold to the background intensity is a constant. So when you are in a noisy environment you must shout to be heard while a whisper works in a quiet room." In its quantitative form, di/I = k, where I is the intensity of some stimulus, di is the amount of change in the stimulus necessary for the change to be noticed, and k is a constant. So if the stimulus value is I=4 and the change is di=1, then the constant is k = 1/4 = 0.25. Now if the stimulus value were quintupled to 20, (and k=0.25), then the di needed for a change to be noticed is 5 (5/20 = .25). The implication is that a change of only 1 unit in a background of 20 units would not be enough to be noticed.

What does that have to do with politics? When there are just 4 possible candidates and another declares his or her candidacy, it is noticeable and the media is all over it like flies around a horse's behind. But now if the pool is expanded to 20 candidates, one more or less does not matter and is barely noticeable. Why? Because of Weber's Law.

Rick Santorum, in announcing his candidacy kind of late, may just have fallen victim to Weber's Law. Think of Santorum as an insufficient stimulus. Couldn't happen to a nicer GOPlin.

Bernie Sanders: Billionaires cannot have it all

Bernie Sanders has a powerful message to American oligarchs: "You cannot take advantage of all the benefits of America, if you refuse to accept your responsibilities." This message is not new writes John Nichols at The Nation.

Sanders is ready to rip into the oligarchs and plutocrats with a fury Democratic presidential contenders have rarely mustered since the days when Franklin Delano Roosevelt bid for a second term by recounting that:

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.

We should all welcome Sanders' fervor. I think he is in a win-win contest. Even if, as is likely, he does not win the election he will certainly change the Democratic party talking points. If that party ignores Sanders' message, it will do so at its peril. Just think what happened in 2014 when the ideological divide between the two major parties were so blurred.

Now read the rest of Nichols' excellent essay and get fired up!

GOP suffers "moment of candor" on Obamacare

Steve Benen (MSNBC/Rachel Maddow Show) calls the lawsuit against Obamacare subsidies "insane."

At issue in the case is whether half of a sentence, buried within the law and removed from context, should be used to tear down the American health care system and strip millions of families of their health security. The New York Times set out to determine how that half of a sentence wound up in the law, and reporter Robert Pear talked to "more than two dozen Democrats and Republicans involved in writing the law." Not one of them endorsed the argument put forward by the plaintiffs.

For example, former Sen. Olympia Snowe recalls no intent at all by lawmakers to distinguish between states with and without federal exchanges.

"I don’t ever recall any distinction between federal and state exchanges in terms of the availability of subsidies," said Olympia J. Snowe, a former Republican senator from Maine who helped write the Finance Committee version of the bill.

"It was never part of our conversations at any point," said Ms. Snowe, who voted against the final version of the Senate bill. "Why would we have wanted to deny people subsidies? It was not their fault if their state did not set up an exchange."

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Don't underestimate Bernie Sanders

That's what Sen. Bernie Sanders says, and John Nichols at The Nation agrees. Sanders announced his candidacy for President. It will be an uphill battle against the likes of Hillary Clinton, but Sanders has a track record of beating the odds and confounding pundits. Check out Nichols' recounting of Sanders' successes and prospects.

Summary of important SCOTUS decisions to be announced in June

From the LA times. Here are snippets of those looming important in AZ.

Affordable Care subsidies

[A] much-anticipated decision will be whether the Obama administration may continue to subsidize health insurance for low- and middle-income people who buy coverage in the 36 states that failed to establish an official insurance exchange of their own and instead use a federally run version.

If the court rules against the Obama administration, about 8.6 million people could lose their subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act said Americans must have health insurance, and the law promised to help pay part of the cost for low- and middle-income people. One clause said these subsidies go for insurance bought through an "exchange established by the state." But only 14 states established an exchange of their own, and the rest rely on exchanges set up by federal authorities. A small conservative group sued, alleging that subsidies in the 36 states are illegal. Supporters of the law say Congress clearly envisioned that subsidies would be offered in all states. (King vs. Burwell).

Redistricting

The court will decide whether the voters or politicians can set the election districts for members of Congress. At least once a decade, new census data prompt states to redraw their districts. Party leaders can use this power to draw safe seats for their members. Upset by gerrymandering, voters in Arizona and California opted to create an independent commission to draw congressional districts. Arizona's Republican legislators want the Supreme Court to strike down these commissions and rule the Constitution reserves this power for "the legislature." The case of Arizona State Legislature vs. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission was heard in March.

EPA rules on toxic emissions by power plants

The Environmental Protection Agency is set to force power plants to sharply reduce emissions of mercury, arsenic and other hazardous air pollutants. The coal and power industries, backed by Republican-led states, say the nearly $10 billion a year required to abide by the rule is too high. The case of Michigan vs. EPA offers a test of whether the high court will uphold the Obama administration's most ambitious clean air rules, including proposed climate change standards. [Scriber's reaction: stop with the fossil-fuel-based emissions. Switch to renewables. Problem solved.]

Marriage and gay rights

The court has said the right to marry is a basic liberty protected by the Constitution. Same-sex couples, some of whom are raising children, say that as a matter of equal rights, states may not deny them a marriage license. In their defense of laws banning gay marriage, the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee say the decision should be left to them and their voters. (Obergefell vs. Hodges)

California oil spill just one example of damage due to pipeline breaks, likely to have long-term effects

NBC News has an update on the spill.

Even if the [wildlife] death toll is relatively low, the impact to area marine mammals, such as dolphins and sea otters, could take years before it's fully understood, said Michael Jasny, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group.

A new study published [last] Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS ONE found that the record dolphin die-off now occurring in the Gulf of Mexico is linked to contaminants in the water from the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Dolphins don't avoid the oil sheens, which means they're "inhaling the fumes that could very well cause disease," said Jasny, the NRDC's director of its marine mammal protection project.

"The oceans are so opaque to us," he added, "and the harms we inflict in it are often invisible."

Barbara Warren posted a video (on Facebook) showing the cumulative statistics of pipeline breaks during the last 30 years. Stunning.

In case you missed it (but I don't know how you could): Ann Kirkpatrick announces run against McCain for Senate seat

Here is one of many press and social media reports (this one from the Daily Star).

And Craig McDermott at B4AZ speculates about the domino effect as Kirkpatrick's CD1 seat opens up.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Atlanta TV station exposes ALEC and its corrupting influence on legislation

When the Media Matters reporter got too in-the-face of an ALEC staffer, the off-duty sheriff deputies were summoned. When the reporter said he was a guest at the hotel hosting the ALEC meeting, here's what happened:

Reporter: "I'm a paying guest at the hotel."

Deputy: "Not for long ... we'll take care of that."

The deputies were unable to answer questions about what law was being broken that caused their intervention. (Hint: no law, just inconvenient questions for ALEC.) See? You need to view this one. It's got good guys, bad guys, and backroom conspiracies galore. Here is the Media Matters link to the TV report.

BTW, as a follow-up to yesterday's post on moral bankruptcy: we elect these idiotors so that they can be paid off by ALEC to let corporations do their idiotive work for them. And, at least in Gaw-ga, they do not have to report their earnings from ALEC. Damn, Arizona. Do something worse quick. You are falling behind in the Race to the Bottom.

h/t Victoria Steele and Jo Holt and others sharing the video on Facebook

Grand Old Poobah faults Obama for losing Iraq war, starts chanting la-la-la in response to reporters' questions

Certainly the first part is true, but our Senator would never tune out hard questions. Or would he?

GOP Senator John McCain dodged questions about who signed off on the troop withdrawal. And did not even come close to addressing who started the war in the first place. (Hint: same former President did both.)

You might have caught this report in the print version of the Daily Star (but not yet at tucson.com). The story is in other various places as well; here is the link to the report in the Yuma Sun. And here is the concluding remark from crooksandLiars.com.

McCain is more than happy to ignore the lessons of history every time he opens his mouth and tries to revise it. The surge did not work. Leaving ground troops in Iraq was only going to delay the inevitable after we went in there and blew that place up and allowed a huge segment of the population in Iraq to be marginalized. And we weren't going to get a new status of forces agreement out of the Iraqis and McCain knows it. None that makes any difference to McCain though because no matter what happens, McCain and Graham's solution for everything is always more war.

Monday, May 25, 2015

We feel the earth move under our feet: Ireland voters overwhelmingly voted to legalize gay marriage

Ireland no less. John Nichols in The Nation contrasts what Ireland just did to other countries.

Ireland, a predominantly Catholic country that is often portrayed as socially conservative (and that still wrestles with a host of issues, most notable reproductive rights), has done a very socially liberal, very progressive thing. And it has not done so in small measure. The turnout for Friday's referendum was over 60 percent – a notably higher level of participation than the United States saw in the 2012 presidential election and a dramatically higher level of participation than was seen in the 2014 elections that decided control of the U.S. Congress. The desire to get this thing right was so strong that Irish men and women who are working around the world came #hometovote, creating magical scenes of young people arriving on ferries signing: "It will not be long, Love, 'Till our wedding day."

Why cannot we Americans do such big things? Nichols argues that our political system is rigged against participation by the people in deciding big issues.

The United States does not hold national referendums or constitutional concerns. There are no electoral structures for giving voters a chance to think big, to make bold statements on a national level, in the way that Ireland did this year on the issue of marriage equality, or that Scotland did last year when more than 85 percent of voters participated in a referendum on independence.

American governing and media elites have historically refused to recognize that what matters most in politics is not politicians or parties. It is the great choice making, where citizens are invited to weigh the most profound and consequential issues. Too many issues are taken off the table in the United States, where electoral processes are drowned in corporate and billionaire money and diminished by the negative ads that are the lingua franca of contemporary electioneering.

We have so delinked American democracy from issues that, in 2014, millions of Americans voted for an exceptionally progressive agenda in referendums – on raising wages, expanding access to Medicare, extending paid-sick leave, banning fracking and amending the constitution to limit the dominance of corporations – and then turned around and voted for candidates and parties that opposed the agenda.

The people are not to blame for this. The candidates seek to create confusion, as do the parties. Campaign consultants work overtime to assure that partisanship prevails over principle. That's why turnout keeps declining and frustration with our political and legislative processes grows with each election season.

And that brings us back to what Ireland accomplished in its national referendum.

Americans should want to feel that same sense of hope and possibility. We, too, should recognize that the unthinkable is perfectly attainable. And we should forge a politics that embraces to that daunting and exhilarating challenge. [Irish essayist Fintan] O'Toole sent a Tweet amid all the celebration in Ireland. It read: "To all our US friends watching: this is what 'the pursuit of happiness' means. Go for it."

As Carole King sang: "I feel the earth move under my feet, I feel the sky tumbling down, tumbling down."

We in the US should aspire to such tremors.

Race to the Bottom: Kansas leads states in moral bankruptcy, Arizona moves to catch up

Bob Lord writing at Blog for Arizona argues that Kansas is mere steps ahead of the rest of us in its moral depravity. Wow! What brought that on?

The proximate cause is the KS lege limiting of ATM withdrawals by welfare recipients to $25. As Bob points out, it is unrealistic (who withdraws cash in such small amounts?), corrupt (the banks get more transaction fees), and dishonest ($20 is the functional limit because ATM's don't dispense $5 bills). But, he argues, there is a deeper cause at work.

By all appearances, Kansas has reached a collective moral bankruptcy.

And this follows a spectacular financial bankruptcy that Kansans inflicted on themselves by electing, then re-electing, Brownback. ...

So, what about the rest of us? Is Kansas leading us to financial and moral hell, or is it an anomaly?

I’d argue we’ve all headed down the path, and Kansas is just steps ahead. Here’s why:

The first step down the path is an elevation of "personal responsibility" over societal responsibility. We took that step, collectively, long ago, with measures such as the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, on which Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich collaborated. Whenever a state legislature or Congress decides to cut assistance to the needy in order to save money, often to offset revenue lost from tax cuts, the measure is justified on the basis of personal responsibility.

...

So, what really distinguishes the rest of us from Kansas? Very little, I think. Once personal responsibility dominates the discourse and stories of personal irresponsibility run rampant, we’ve reached the point where those of us in power, and their supporters, see themselves as morally better than those whom they’ve labeled as irresponsible. At that point, setting rules for the behavior of those perceived as something less than the rest of us is a baby step. Kansas may be the first to take that baby step. I can’t see it being the last.

Indeed. crAZy is goose-stepping along with Kansas. Recall that AZ cut back life-time assistance to one year making it the only state to have done so. The AP reports.

The cuts of at least $4 million reflect a prevailing mood among the lawmakers in control in Arizona that welfare, Medicaid and other public assistance programs are crutches that keep the poor from getting back on their feet and achieving their potential.

"I tell my kids all the time that the decisions we make have rewards or consequences, and if I don't ever let them face those consequences, they can't get back on the path to rewards," Republican Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, said during debate on the budget. "As a society, we are encouraging people at times to make poor decisions and then we reward them."

As I wrote before:

These lawmakers really do think that being poor or sick or disabled is a choice. Therefore, goes the reasoning, punishing that choice will make people behave differently. If we make the poor poorer and the sick sicker then they will see the error of their ways.

Being poor or sick or disabled is NOT a choice. But I argue that electing people who believe that those are "decisions" makes the electorate culpable just as Bob Lord claimed.

Back to Bob for generalizations to other "free" "choices".

... setting daily spending limits may be mild compared to other measures that tend to become law when those making the laws place themselves on a higher moral ground than those to whom the laws are applied. After all, those Kansas legislators decided it was okay to use their power to modify the behavior of others, far beyond the behavior modification associated with criminal statutes. If it’s okay to regulate a person’s spending habits, would it also be okay to regulate her other habits? And if she fails to obey the regulations, would it be okay to introduce punitive measures to ensure she does so in the future?

What happened in Kansas should be seen as a dangerous signal.

And not just in Kansas.

The country is looking into the abyss of moral hell. Is it prepared to take the plunge?

Monday morning cartoons

From AZBlueMeanie at B4AZ.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Of course not #3: Text messages between Corporation Commissioner and dark money group had nothing to do with the campaign???

Various watchdog groups and media sources are interested in communications during the last election between Bob Stump, a member of the Arizona Corporation Commission, the Republican candidates for seats on the Commission, and dark money groups. Here are snippets from a report by Laurie Roberts at azcentral.com.

Here is the issue:

Independent campaigns can spend as much as they want to get somebody elected (or defeated) – and sadly, the dark-money campaigns don't have to disclose the source of their funding -- but it is illegal for independent campaigns to coordinate with the candidates they seek to get elected.

And the Clean Elections Commission has a stake in this because candidates Forese and Little were running "clean" meaning that they were using Clean Elections public financing.

Checks and Balances Project, a non-profit that advocates for clean energy policies, this week disclosed phone logs that call into question whether Stump acted as a go-between in order to coordinate activities between Arizona Public Service, a pair of APS-friendly candidates and a dark-money independent campaign widely believed to have been funded by APS.

According to Checks & Balances, Stump used his state phone to text AzFEC president Scot Mussi while curiously also texting Forese, Little and their campaign manager, Alan Heywood.

Evan Wyloge, reporter for the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, overlaid the calls with AzFEC's spending on its campaign for Little and Forese and came up with some interesting coincidences.

Here's a partial timeline Wyloge put together:

July 23: Mussi's group spends $97,000 on mailers for Forese and Little.

July 24: Stump and Mussi trade eight texts, and Stump and Little exchanged 17 texts.

July 25: Stump exchanges 18 texts with the candidates' campaign manager, Heywood. It was the first time the two had texted since May 1.

Evening of July 25 and morning of July 26: Stump and Mussi texted five times and Stump and Forese texted four times.

July 28: Mussi's AzFEC spends another $64,000 on mailers for Forese and Little.

In all, the logs show Stump sent 56 emails to Barbara Lockwood, an APS executive between June and September and 46 to Mussi. He sent about 180 to Forese and Little, who enjoyed $3.2 million in dark money support from AzFEC and another dark-money group believed to have gotten funds from APS.

Not surprisingly, the pair was easily elected to the commission that regulates utilities.

Did any of these messages have anything to do with the campaign?

Of course not.

Stump ... has said his calls were unrelated to Forese and Little's campaign. Mussi, he said, is an old friend and they were simply trying to coordinate a trip to the symphony.

ISIS threat to Palmyra (new link)

A couple of days ago I featured the capture of the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria by ISIS. I mentioned an interview done my Rachel Maddow with NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel. Here is a better link (that runs on my iPad).

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Four-Profit-Men of the Edupocalypse: Profit, Power, Property, and Predation

An operetta in one act presenting a musical look at the state of education in crAZy.

Profit - Tenor Doug Duce, soprano Diva Douglas, and basso profundo Greg Miller joined by the AZ idioture in cacophony mode singing "Let the good times role."

Power - A duet by tenor Il Duce and hyper-soprano Douglas. "The power and glory are mine." "Are not." "Are too." "Are not." "Are too."

Property - A trio by the Miller family celebrating their good fortune. (Sung to the tune of "Gravity" by John Mayer.)

Predation - a finale with all of the above backed by the idiotive chorus singing "We were for free markets until we were against them."

As you know, there is a huge battle going on between Diane Douglas and Il Duce, and between Diane Douglas and Greg Miller, President of the State Board of Education. There is more to this than the headlines. I've been mislead into thinking that there is a good guy in this mix. There is not.

Here is the background with investigative reporting by Ann-Eve Pedersen in a stunning video essay at Tucson Weekly/The Range on what's really going on. David Saffier summed it up in his reaction: "speechless." More from David:

The battles between Diane Douglas and the Ducey-supported state Board of Education have been all over the papers and The Range recently. What's going on is a power struggle. The outcome will help determine the kind of policy that comes out of the state education administration, but right now, the two sides are jostling for position, not policy.

In most reports, we hear more about Douglas' agenda than about the Board's. This video is a bit of a corrective. Remember back when, when Douglas said Ducey and the board president, Gregory Miller, want to move money from district schools to charters? You'll learn more about that, and about President Miller, in the video by Ann-Eve Pedersen, my cohost on the cable access show, Education: The Rest of the Story (which, by the way, may end its run shortly if Access Tucson is forced to close its doors).

Fun fact: Gregory Miller is CEO and Superintendent of Challenge Charter School in Glendale—population, about 530 students. His salary is $122,000. His wife, Pamela, the Executive Director and Vice President, also gets a $122,000 salary. Their daughter, Wendy, is principal and secretary of the school. Her salary is $99,000. Watch the video to find out who determined their salaries.

We don't need Duce's financial reform of public education. We need legislation to get responsible oversight over the charter school industry. (I know, dream on ...)

Anyway, you should view the video by Pedersen and then help make it go viral.

Of course not #1: Il Duce opposes any tax for public schools

Even if the voters try to vote for one. Here are snippets from the Daily Star article.

Gov. Doug Ducey said Friday that he will oppose any effort to hike taxes to boost education funding, even one where voters would make the decision.

"I have said that we are not going to raise taxes," the governor said. "And I have been consistent."

His absolute stance comes as some business leaders are exploring whether there need to be more state dollars to improve public education.

Arizona consistently ranks at or near the bottom in per-pupil spending. But it takes a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate — along with a gubernatorial signature — to hike taxes.

That leaves the option of a public vote.

Good luck with that one, business leaders. (How many of them voted for Il Duce, BTW?) The idioture will not fund public schools and the Il Duce won't sign off on any tax bill. And now Duce will buck the will of the people?

But he has a plan. I think it involves charter schools and more budget cuts. But you'll just have to trust him and wait for it. Just like the condemned prisoner with the blindfold on has to trust the warden and wait for it ... as the rifles are cocked ...

Of course not #2: Kyrsten Sinematic refuses to cosponsor redistricting bill, does not return calls from the press.

You might expect Democratic members of our Washington delegation to support the voice of the people and their Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. Silly you. Here is the report from the Daily Star.

Fearing defeat at the Supreme Court, more than a dozen members of Congress from California and

Arizona introduced legislation Friday to preserve congressional boundaries set by independent redistricting commissions.

HR 2501 bars the legislatures in six states, including Arizona, from redrawing the lines ahead of the 2020 decennial census. That preserves the current political balance of power of each state’s congressional delegation.

The high court could rule as early as Tuesday on a challenge to the authority of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission to craft congressional districts.

That lawsuit, brought by Republican legislative leaders, points out the U.S. Constitution gives each state’s legislature the power to determine the "times, places and manner" of congressional elections. What that means, they contend, is Arizona voters had no legal right to give that authority in 2000 to the five-member commission.

...

Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., one of the prime sponsors of the legislation, acknowledged it is just a stopgap solution. ...

Lowenthal said HR 2501 is crafted in such a way that it is designed to survive even a high-court ruling that sides with the Arizona Republican legislative leaders. He pointed out that while the U.S. Constitution empowers legislatures to draw congressional lines it also permits Congress to "make or alter such regulations."

He got Republican Dana Rohrabacher, also of California, as the other prime sponsor. It also has the support of Kirkpatrick and fellow Arizona Democrats Raúl Grijalva and Ruben Gallego, but none of Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation.

The fourth Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema, did not join as a sponsor, and did not return calls for comment.

Of course not. How Sinematic.

Friday, May 22, 2015

It's the Infrastructure, Stupid: Boehner's Boner About Amtrak

And more; his remarks reflect badly on the nation's lack of priority for infrastructure investment. Here is John Nichols' commentary on the tragic state of American transportation infrastructure. Let's start with Boehner's dumb-ass remarks.

House Speaker John Boehner blew a gasket when a reporter asked him whether the Republicans' refusal to adequately fund Amtrak might have played a role in the May 12 derailment of a Northeast Corridor train that killed eight people and injured more than 200.

"Are you really gonna ask such a stupid question? Listen, you know, they started this yesterday: ‘It's all about funding. It's all about funding.' Well, obviously, it's not about funding," Boehner whined, before seizing on reports that the train "was going twice the speed limit" as it entered a turn in Philadelphia.

But it really is about funding. It's also about safety.

Boehner's folly was to presume that every transportation disaster is an either/or situation, in which the possibility of accident or human error immediately absolves austerity-obsessed legislators from any responsibility. It doesn't work that way. Smart investments in infrastructure don't just maintain the physical integrity of transportation systems; they pay for technological improvements that protect the lives of passengers and crew. These new technologies have caused accident rates to decline in recent years, yet many railway corridors are still awaiting them—no small matter when Amtrak derailments have jumped from two in 2012, to six in 2014, to nine in the first two months of 2015. Adequate funding also eases the pressure for staff cuts, which are a major safety concern for unions representing the workers of rail lines and urban mass-transit systems.

The tragedy is that American is being outspent on transportation by the other major industrialized nations. And that is simply symptomatic of the deeper fault in our nation's priorities.

Just to keep up with infrastructure demands, Amtrak needs a huge hike in federal support. "Studies show it would take a staggering $21.1 billion investment to simply bring the Northeast Corridor's infrastructure to a state of good repair," says Chris Murphy, a member of a key Senate subcommittee on transportation. A month before the May 12 derailment, National Journal noted that the House had "agreed to fund Amtrak for the next four years at a rate of $1.4 billion per year. Meanwhile, the Chinese government—fair comparison or not—will be spending $128 billion this year on rail."

It's not just safety that's being underfunded, and not just on rail lines. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation's infrastructure a grade of D+ in 2013 and outlined the need for massive investment to bring things up to speed. Congress must recognize what New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, a Republican, recently noted: While US spending on infrastructure has collapsed to 1.7 percent of GDP, "the rest of the world races ahead. Europe spends 5 percent of G.D.P. on infrastructure, and China 9 percent." Confronted by information and events that demand action, John Boehner keeps saying "it's not about funding." That's stupid.

It is. We are on our way to a monumental crisis. Our transportation system is outmoded. Our roadways and our bridges are rotting out (remember 70,000 bridges in need of repair or replacement). This is not a partisan issue; we need action as a nation. If we do not act, the danger is that we will hit a fiscal wall that will prevent any kind of remediation and hasten the slide into mediocrity and cause major economic upheaval.

There is an example of what infrastructure investment can do for the nation's economic growth. That is the interstate highway system. I sense Dwight Eisenhower turning over in his grave. Or perhaps looking down upon the current generation of political leaders with dismay and disdain.

World heritage site Palmyra ruins threatened by ISIS

There are many, many reasons to detest the Islamic fundamentalists, the Taliban and the Islamic State (ISIS): political executions, kidnappings, rape, beheadings, extortion, and destruction of historical sites and artifacts. Now ISIS has captured the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and officials concerned with preservation of such sites are justifiably concerned. The NY Times has the story. The text centers on reports of the battle and plight of the residents. But there are some stunning photos of the ruins at the head of the report and a short video of a plea for cease fire and protection of the ruins by a Unesco leader.

The Daily Star has a good summary about the history of Palmyra and its status as a world heritage site. The story also recaps how ISIS destroyed antiquities in Iraq.

If you can find the video of Rachel Maddow's report on Palmyra from last night's show, you should spend 10 minutes watching - it's really good (but I could not get it downloaded on my iPad - sorry). She also shows clips of men with sledge hammers destroying statues in Iraq under the supervision of a black-clad, armed ISIS soldier.

Scriber thinks ISIS can act with impunity in Palmyra and is likely to destroy the ruins. Ironically, they might do so with captured US tanks. (Remember how the Taliban shelled the statues of Buddha in Afghanistan? Think about the very possible fate of Palmyra on a much larger scale.)

Here are the "fears" about Palmyra (from the Star article).

Following Palmyra's capture by Islamic State militants, many fear the extremists will destroy the archaeological site as they did other ancient ruins in neighboring Iraq.

In March, IS members razed the ancient cities of Nimrod and Hatra in Iraq — both UNESCO world heritage sites. The move was described by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon as a "war crime."

The militants have released videos in recent months showing fighters proudly destroying artifacts with hammers and drills in a museum in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and using explosives to wreck other sites.

The Sunni extremists, who have imposed a violent interpretation of Shariah law in the territories they control in Syria and Iraq, believe ancient relics promote idolatry.

Since capturing Palmyra and its archaeological treasures, IS has not said what it plans to do with them.

You see why I am pessimistic?

Short takes: dark money, Chief Hissier goes to court, and a walk on an oil-covered beach

Tim Steller reports on texting between Corporation Commission member and APS and dark money folks (Daily Star). Why are we not surprised given the amount of money doled out by APS in the election.

Diane Douglas watch: Douglas and State Board arguments heard in court. No ruling yet - stay tuned (story from Daily Star).

Santa Barbara oil spill damages wildlife. The company responsible basically ducks responsibility in news conferences while we endure photos of oil-covered birds. Tragic, but predictable. This is a warning of what's to come in the Arctic when drilling commences by another company with a lousy track record. (Story at the Daily Star.)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

People with Obamacare plans like their plans ...

... but some of them hate Obamacare anyway. Sara Kliff at Vox.com reports on a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study.

crAZy in the news: Arizona's welfare cuts lead the nation

You probably know this already but it is still circulating in the media. The AP has the story and the Washington Post picked it up in the Plum Line/Happy Hour Roundup. From the AP:

Facing a $1 billion budget deficit, Arizona's Republican-led Legislature has reduced the lifetime limit for welfare recipients to the shortest window in the nation.

Low-income families on welfare will now have their benefits cut off after just 12 months.

The cuts of at least $4 million reflect a prevailing mood among the lawmakers in control in Arizona that welfare, Medicaid and other public assistance programs are crutches that keep the poor from getting back on their feet and achieving their potential.

These lawmakers really do think that being poor or sick or disabled is a choice. Therefore, goes the reasoning, punishing that choice will make people behave differently. If we make the poor poorer and the sick sicker then they will see the error of their ways. Here is an example.

"I tell my kids all the time that the decisions we make have rewards or consequences, and if I don't ever let them face those consequences, they can't get back on the path to rewards," Republican Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, said during debate on the budget. "As a society, we are encouraging people at times to make poor decisions and then we reward them."

What do you think the chances are that Kelli Ward's kids will ever need assistance?

AZ is winning this Race to the Bottom but is not at the finish line yet. Maybe Ward and friends can reduce the limit on benefits from 12 months to 6. That would really beat Kansas, Toto.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

TPP: The sequel to Catch 22

The secrecy imposed on the TransPacific Partnership prevents our representatives from doing their constitutional duty. Here is the story from Politico by a long-time (Democratic) consultant on trade. Included on his resume': "publicly acknowledged advisor to the Obama campaign in 2008." Despite his creds, even he cannot get access to all of the TPP. The net result is that he, and our representatives, cannot fully participate in any debate about TPP so the President can dismiss their concerns for lack of specificity. Catch 22 indeed.

"You need to tell me what’s wrong with this trade agreement, not one that was passed 25 years ago," a frustrated President Barack Obama recently complained about criticisms of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). He’s right. The public criticisms of the TPP have been vague. That’s by design—anyone who has read the text of the agreement could be jailed for disclosing its contents. I’ve actually read the TPP text provided to the government’s own advisors, and I’ve given the president an earful about how this trade deal will damage this nation. But I can’t share my criticisms with you.

I can tell you that Elizabeth Warren is right about her criticism of the trade deal. We should be very concerned about what's hidden in this trade deal—and particularly how the Obama administration is keeping information secret even from those of us who are supposed to provide advice.

So-called "cleared advisors" like me are prohibited from sharing publicly the criticisms we’ve lodged about specific proposals and approaches. The government has created a perfect Catch 22: The law prohibits us from talking about the specifics of what we’ve seen, allowing the president to criticize us for not being specific. Instead of simply admitting that he disagrees with me—and with many other cleared advisors—about the merits of the TPP, the president instead pretends that our specific, pointed criticisms don’t exist.

What I can tell you is that the administration is being unfair to those who are raising proper questions about the harms the TPP would do. To the administration, everyone who questions their approach is branded as a protectionist—or worse—dishonest. They broadly criticize organized labor, despite the fact that unions have been the primary force in America pushing for strong rules to promote opportunity and jobs. And they dismiss individuals like me who believe that, first and foremost, a trade agreement should promote the interests of domestic producers and their employees.

...

Questions pervade virtually every chapter of the proposed agreement, including labor and the environment, investor-state, intellectual property and others. The answers to these questions affect the sourcing and investment decisions of our companies and resulting jobs for our people. Our elected representatives would be abdicating their Constitutional duty if they failed to raise questions.

But there is the catch. Our elected representatives cannot raise reasoned questions to the electorate because of the security classification imposed by the administration.

Senator Warren should be commended for her courage in standing up to the President, and Secretary Clinton for raising a note of caution, and I encourage all elected officials to raise these important questions. Working Americans can’t afford more failed trade agreements and trade policies.

Congress should refuse to pass fast track trade negotiating authority until the partnership between the branches, and the trust of the American people is restored. That will require a lot of fence mending and disclosure of exactly what the TPP will do. That begins by sharing the final text of the TPP with those of us who won’t simply rubber-stamp it.

h/t AZBlueMeanie at B4A

Race to the Bottom: crAZy is number 1 in cutting welfare benefits for needy families

The post at Daily Kos begins:

... the Arizona legislature did what no other state in the nation has been mean-spirited enough to do: they cut lifetime welfare benefits to one year for everyone — adults and children, the physically and mentally disabled. Most states have a five-year limit, while thirteen others impose a two-year cutoff. Texas (of course) has a flexible limit that can be as short as one year, but even children are exempt in the Lone Star State. Not so for Arizona! We're Number 1!

As a result, the Arizona Department of Economic Security will drop at least 1,600 families — including more than 2,700 children — from the state's federally funded welfare program when the budget year begins in July.

"The GOP still doesn’t get it on Iraq"

Katrina vanden Heuvel writing in the Washington Post faults the GOP, and som Dems as well, for a hawkish world view in which military intervention is the seen as a solution to, but in fact creates, problems abroad and at home. You might recall that Presidential candidate Jeb Bush when asked if he would have invaded Iraq given what we now know, he essentially said he would. Then, amidst criticism from both left and right (and other GOP contenders for the Presidency) he waffled his way into saying the opposite. But the fundamental attitudes that got us into that ongoing, disastrous military escapade remain.

Although Bush has disavowed his original statement, neither he nor his chief opponents have disavowed the hawkish worldview that led to the disastrous invasion of Iraq. And, unfortunately, it’s a worldview shared by too many in the Democratic Party who have not learned their lesson. Indeed, it remains an open question whether Hillary Clinton has learned hers. What we should be debating in 2016 is how much the U.S. commitment to police the world detracts from dealing with the real security needs of its people and the globe. Such a real security policy would make military intervention a last resort and seriously address the growing dangers posed by the broken global economy, catastrophic climate change and metastasizing inequality.

Diane Douglas throwing hissy fit

Laurie Roberts at The Republic has some choice remarks about Superintendent for Public Instruction Diane Douglas. It boils down to this. Douglas had no idea what she was getting into when she campaigned against Common Core, a version of which was already being implemented by the State Board of Education. Come to find out, the Board sets policy, and Douglas does not. So she throws said fit, tries to fire Board employees, and rolls out a law suit. All on the taxpayers' dime.

And it's not over. The fit will get hissier (to coin a word). Douglas would like us to believe that she is acting nobly.

Still, Douglas pledges that her ongoing feud won't be a distraction.

"I will continue to focus on improving the education of Arizona's children," she said,

Roberts' one-word reaction: "Continue?"

Scriber's one-word reaction: the name for droppings from a male cow.

UPDATE: What'd I say? The Daily Star reports: Douglas defies Board of Education and denies access to records.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Diane Douglas in the news (unfortunately)

This time it's about access to teacher files - or is it?

Douglas tried to fire Board of Education staff because those staffers were supporting the Board's position on standard (aka Common Core) which Douglas detests. Ducey over-ruled her with the result that the Board staff moved into the executive building. Douglas has a law suit pending on that issue of control over the Board's staff. Now the Board may take legal action against Douglas about access to teacher certification records. From the Daily Star:

Already embroiled in one lawsuit, the state Board of Education on Monday gave schools chief Diane Douglas until the end of the day Tuesday to give its investigators unfettered access to teacher records or possibly end up in court.

You could view this, as Douglas has claimed, as a matter of constitutional authority over the Board employees. Or you could see it as a matter of access to records. But the real issue, Scriber continues to assert, is whether Douglas will faithfully execute Board policy with respect to standards - which she will not. All the rest is skirmishing around this central issue.

If the Superintendent of Public Instruction was hired by the Board, and was not an elected office, there would be no issue at all. Douglas would simply be fired for failure to carry out Board policy. The only recourse now is the recall effort. Let's fire Douglas at the ballot box.

Il Duce's pattern of disregard for law

Gov. Doug Ducey (or as I christened him quite a while back, Il Duce) has a pattern of questionable executive actions. AZBlueMeanie at B4AZ lists them all. My worry is the move to create an executive police force answerable only to Il Duce. AZBlueMeanie quotes from Laurie Roberts at azcentral.com:

While he was busy killing off Weights and Measures, Ducey was also creating his own secret police force. The new Inspector General’s Office, we are told, will keep an eye out for fraud and waste.

You know, like the Attorney General’s Office does?

Under Ducey’s plan, the new IG would be "a law enforcement agency that confers all investigative powers and privileges appurtenant to a law enforcement agency under state law."

Inspectors will carry badges, have subpoena power and report directly to the governor. And oh yeah, as proposed, their work will be confidential.

AZBlueMeanie continues:

"A political appointee who reports to politician boss & has police powers to conduct secret investigations," tweeted Republican Scott Smith, who ran for governor last year. "What could possibly go wrong?"

What went "wrong" is that Il Duce Gov. Ducey failed to get legislative approval for his secret police Blackshirts. He is still negotiating a bill with legislative leaders for the next legislative session. Given his track record so far, they would be damn fools to give him a secret police force to abuse the powers of his office any further.

Obama suspends military equipment transfer to police departments

The specter of our "protect and serve" officers decked out in full combat gear next to armored personnel carriers is troubling on many levels. So Obama's executive action is most welcome. But it is only a start as Paul Waldeman writes in the Plum Line at the Washington Post.

The program under which military equipment is transferred to local police departments has certainly helped spread the idea that police are soldiers in a war. Give a small town’s police force an armored personnel carrier and a dozen assault rifles, and suddenly carrying out that warrant on a guy you think is selling drugs turns into a military operation. This may be anecdotal, but I’ve seen police in a number of small towns where no cop has ever been shot wearing bulletproof vests on their daily rounds, while 20 years ago, cops would only don the vests if they were going on some kind of raid. And that’s despite the fact that crime has dropped precipitously over that period.

This web of associated problems with American policing — racism, abuse and exploitation of people in poor communities, inadequate training, the warrior mentality — is going require sustained attention and policy energy, particularly at the local and state level. Not arming every local force like it’s the 101st Airborne is a start, but it’s about the least we can do.

What else must be done?

This is undoubtedly good news (how anyone ever thought it would be a good idea to give local police bayonets and grenade launchers is difficult to understand). But everything we’ve learned in the last nine months tells us that the problems in American policing are so deep and so wide that they not only will require years if not decades to solve, they require a fundamental rethinking of the ideology of American policing.

Iraq redux: Fool me once, fool me twice?

One hopes not. Paul Krugman IDs the purposeful lies that led us into the Iraq war. And the same people that did it are still around - to wit, Jeb Bush's foreign policy team.

... The Iraq war wasn’t an innocent mistake, a venture undertaken on the basis of intelligence that turned out to be wrong. America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war. The public justifications for the invasion were nothing but pretexts, and falsified pretexts at that. We were, in a fundamental sense, lied into war.

The fraudulence of the case for war was actually obvious even at the time: the ever-shifting arguments for an unchanging goal were a dead giveaway. So were the word games — the talk about W.M.D that conflated chemical weapons (which many people did think Saddam had) with nukes, the constant insinuations that Iraq was somehow behind 9/11.

... truth matters, and not just because those who refuse to learn from history are doomed in some general sense to repeat it. The campaign of lies that took us into Iraq was recent enough that it’s still important to hold the guilty individuals accountable. Never mind Jeb Bush’s verbal stumbles. Think, instead, about his foreign-policy team, led by people who were directly involved in concocting a false case for war.

So let’s get the Iraq story right. Yes, from a national point of view the invasion was a mistake. But (with apologies to Talleyrand) it was worse than a mistake, it was a crime.

AZBlueMeanie at B4AZ has some choice words about the lies and the media's role in the run-up to the war.

The Beltway media villagers have all decided that the framing of the question — in order to extricate themselves from their own complicity — should be "would you have invaded Iraq, knowing what we know now?" The premise of the question presupposes that decisions were made in good faith based upon "faulty" intelligence. In other words, Iraq was a "mistake."

That is complete bullshit. There was solid reporting at the time questioning and undermining the Bush administration’s case for war from McClatchy News and Scripps Howard, and numerous international news sources. There was solid evidence that the case for war was based upon fabricated "cooked" intelligence. The American people were being lied to, and it was reported at the time.

But the so-called "gatekeepers" of the mainstream corporate news media all chose to ignore this countervailing reporting for the Bush administration’s narrative (see the New York Times’ Judith Miller, for example) because they made an editorial decision to cheer lead for a Neocon war of adventure in Iraq, the consequences of which we are still living with today.

A Slate article has links to the Jon Stewart interview with Judith Miller who still defends the reporting at the time. It'w worth the view to see how Stewart holds it together - barely.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The disaster is in the details: A tale of gridlock and crumbling bridges

Last night on 60 Minutes, CBS replayed a story about America's crumbling infrastructure. After years of neglect, insufficient investment in our infrastructure, and political gridlock, we have 70,000 bridges in desperate need of repair or replacement.

There are a lot of people in the United States right now who think the country is falling apart, and at least in one respect they're correct. Our roads and bridges are crumbling, our airports are out-of-date, and there are many miles of railroad track lacking safety technology that might have prevented last week's derailment of an Amtrak commuter train outside of Philadelphia.

And that's an assessment over and above the fact that we do not invest in new forms of rapid transit.

The situation is the result of decades of neglect. As we reported last fall, none of this is really in dispute. Business leaders, labor unions, governors, mayors, congressmen and presidents have all complained about a lack of funding for years, but aside from a one-time cash infusion from the stimulus program, nothing much has changed. There is still no consensus on how to solve the problem or where to get the massive amounts of money needed to fix it, just another example of political paralysis in Washington.

Tens of millions of American cross over bridges every day without giving it much thought, unless they hit a pothole. But the infrastructure problem goes much deeper than pavement. It goes to crumbling concrete and corroded steel and the fact that nearly 70,000 bridges in America -- one out of every nine -- is now considered to be structurally deficient.

The story has an embedded video on why infrastructure gets ignored in which "Steve Kroft discusses his 60 Minutes report on America's crumbling infrastructure, which he calls an unsexy topic with high stakes."

Fact check: What Trent Franks did NOT say about the Pope and the poor

To start, let me advise my readers that I am no fan of Trent Franks. I think he is a perfect example of what is wrong in American politics. (Well, he may be beat out by Louie Gohmert!) I have no problem nailing this guy. But in doing so, we need to get our facts straight.

From snopes.com:

Did Rep. Trent Franks really say, on 05/13/2015, "I question if the pope understands scripture. He's obviously read it but it's just as obvious that he doesn't understand it. Nothing in the Bible obligates us to help the poor."

The short answer is "no." This is a quote circulating around the internet. Snopes picked it up from email and I've seen it posted on Facebook as a text-over on a head shot of Rep. Trent Franks (R, AZ) attributed to politico.com. I checked the politico.com report and there is nothing in it resembling that quote. Here's what snopes has to say.

Origins: On 15 May 2015, the entertainment-based Facebook group Stop the World, the Teabaggers Want Off posted a photograph of U.S. Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, appended with a quote attributed to the lawmaker. According to the page, The Republican Franks questioned whether Pope Francis was truly familiar with scripture, maintaining that "nothing in the Bible obligates us to help the poor":

The Facebook group in question (Stop The World, The Teabaggers Want Off) almost exclusively publishes fabricated quotes attributed to Conservative politicians and pundits. Previously, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson were targeted by the page with similar memes. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin has also appeared in memes created by the page regarding white privilege, a purported endorsement of Benjamin Netanyahu, and a claim vaccinations lead to homosexuality.

Stop The World, The Teabaggers Want Off generally attributes its quoted content to a well-known source (in this instance, Politico), but the citations typically are bogus. A disclaimer found on the group's Facebook page states all posts are for entertainment purposes only:

This page is for entertainment purposes. It is NOT meant to be taken seriously. It is primarily satire and parody with a mix of political memes and messages.

Humorous memes are just one of several ways fake news and other shaky content spreads on the internet. Our article "Six Ways to Spot Fake News illustrates many of the ways to spot (and avoid sharing) seemingly credible links that are in actuality humor-based..

Here are links to the snopes six ways: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)

But the simplest check is just doing a Google search on the internet, in this case for the Politico article. My search also brought up the snopes.com evaluation.

Unanswered questions about the TransPacific Partnership

Scriber thinks the most important questions about the TPP are the ones not answered by the current debate. From Sunday's azcentral.com.

[PRO: It's good for business.] ... Trade-promotion authority for the president is one of the most economically significant issues of this president's tenure. Reasonable federal estimates of its overall impact project at least $77 billion per year in real income benefits for U.S. workers, gleaned from an annual addition of $305 billion in U.S. exports to the 12 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

[CON: It's bad for the American worker.] But, as The Arizona Republic's Rebekah Sanders reported last week, Sinema in particular has come under intense pressure from labor unions, which are the partnership's most vocal opponents. Kirkpatrick reportedly has signaled privately her opposition to the deal to her union supporters.

Both lawmakers need to keep in mind that the broader interests of their constituents beyond the union halls are at stake here.

Exactly! What are those "broader interests"? What is the big picture? What is the broad vision of the future? What is the place of the American worker in that future?

These are questions not answered, or rarely (never?) asked, in the debate over TPP. For example, The Republic urges Congresswomen Kirkpatrick ad Sinema to vote for it because of the projections of the cash flow from projected trade balances. But that reasoning is short term and dismisses the concerns of those (unions) concerned with loss of jobs here at home. It does not take into account the secrecy shrouding the document and its development. It does not address the likely law suits brought against governments by corporations because of supposed loss of projected profits.

So I think there must be some grand vision of the future in the minds of those supporters of TPP (including President Obama). Why not share it? Tell us how the American worker fits into that vision. Is the employment of low-wage workers in Asia worth disruption in the work force at home?

I am an empirical scientist. I value fact-based decision making. I value articulation of policies (theories in science) that guide admission of facts to our discussions. Please, someone, give me a grand theory that answers my questions about TPP and the future of the planet. Until that happens, I am inclined to think the worst of the secrecy and prohibition on public debate. As a result, I remain deeply suspicious of the promised benefits of TPP.

UPDATE: This editorial from Bloomberg View reprinted in this morning's Daily Star does not come anywhere close to providing the grand world view. Basically the point is something like "you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs." What is the end point of the globalization fostered by TPP? What does a completely globalized world look like? And where does the American work force fit in to that world?