Monday, August 31, 2015

More on trumping Trump on immigration

Like I said in the previous post below, Trump's inheritors will have to feed raw rhetorical meat to the 35% in order to win an election. And before that they will have to trump Trump to get ahead in the primaries. Along the way, the Republican party will be thoroughly slimed. AZBlueMeanie weighs in on trumping Trump. Here are some tidbits.

[Wisc. Gov. Scott] Walker, seeking to one-up Donald Trump and his "big, beautiful wall" on the U.S.-Mexico border, said he is open to building a wall along the U.S.- Canada border ...

Governor Chris Christie — is this guy still running? — who topped all of his rivals this weekend by calling for a high-tech update to tattooing identification numbers on the arms of "undesirables."

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Saturday that if he were elected president he would combat illegal immigration by creating a system to track foreign visitors the way FedEx tracks packages.
Christie said at a campaign event in New Hampshire that he would ask the chief executive of FedEx, Frederick W. Smith, to devise the tracking system.

... immigrants who are here legally, or even illegally, enjoy civil liberties under the U.S. Constitution. Do we really want to institute a high-tech version of tattooing identification numbers on the arms of "undesirables" like Nazi Germany?

The answer could very well be "yes" depending on how you define "we." Trump is bringing out the very worst of "conservative" Americans and those uglinesses are reflected in the GOP lineup.

This is what Donald Trump’s overt nativism and racism has done to the GOP field of candidates. Trump’s rivals are trying to trump him on immigration with even more offensive and outrageously extreme anti-immigration proposals.

FYI, here are GOP candidates' positions on immigration in one easy chart. h/t "Cheri", a B4AZ commenter

Daily Trumpeter: Message to progressives: Be careful what you wish for

Here is a cautionary message from Bob Lord at Blog for Arizona, and additional commentary from your Scriber.

You don’t have to look hard to find progressives giddy over Trump’s ascendancy. Just scroll down your Facebook page or check out the comments to posts here. Our own commenter, the omniscient Captain Arizona, is on board. "The enemy of your enemy is your friend," he explains.

Where it is still permitted, we undoubtedly will see progressive mischief makers cross over to vote for Trump in Republican primaries, if his show lasts that long.

As I’ve written previously, I’m sure Trump will crash, or at least fade. Nonetheless, his success thus far should be cause for alarm, not celebration, among thinking, decent people. Face it: If Trump survived the Republican primaries, the only thing between him and the presidency would be people of color. White America would be ready to elect him, perhaps in a landslide. That reality should be chilling.

Trump not only is whipping a huge (and growing) segment of the population into a nativist, nationalist frenzy, he’s doing so based on pure fiction. Our current net in-migration rate is approximately zero. It might even be slightly negative.

... I don’t want the "crowd" in America any more warmed up than it is. Truth is, the current temperature of the crowd scares the crap out of me.

Yes, the consternation Trump has created in the Republican party establishment is entertaining. But if you’re rooting for it to continue, be careful what you wish for.

The situation in the Republican party is bad with Trump being the champion of a racist, fascist movement. But there is another angle on this story. To be sure, with 35% of Republicans favoring Trump, progressives should be very worried. But think about what happens if (when?) Trump does flame out. His obvious inheritors need to pick up that 35% to come anywhere close to winning the election. Having been through a primary season in which they practiced a call-and-raise strategy, copy-catting and out-Trumping Trump, they now have to deliver to that 35%. Trump has opened the gate of political hell and his inheritors will just swing the gate a bit wider.

Monday Morning Funnies: Cartoons to start your week

Here are the toons from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Scriber on vacation ...

... so posts may be a little spotty for the next few days.

Daily Trumpeter: Fitz explains what it takes to be a Trump ...

... in an editorial at the Daily Star. Before diving in, see how many ways you can weave these three magic words into your own personal narrative: "phenomenal," "great," and "huge."

Quote of the day

If you mindlessly vote party line, you get unqualified idiots like Diane Douglas, the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Laurie Roberts (The Republic/azcentral.com) summarizes Douglas' sub-kindergarten tantrums. So far, Douglas has done nothing, NOTHING, of value for our educational needs. She just runs around picking fights. Fortunately, she loses them. Here's the quote.

Reader after reader expressed shock that Douglas could continue carrying on like a kinderg…oops, I mean a baby when Arizona’s schools so desperately need a boost.

"I am a registered Republican but this is what you get when you just vote party," wrote Craig Heustis of Buckeye, on my Facebook page. "Base your vote on the research you can do on the qualifications of the person regardless of party."

If more R's had done that, among other things, we might have a reasonable budget, a resolution of the school funding fight, action on dark money, and a Corporation Commission that works for AZ citizens and not for the corporations they are supposed to regulate.

Corporation Commissioners address alleged spending on campaigns by utilities

But only two of the five are (finally!) taking some action. About the other three? Well, as you should know, they are part of the problem. Scriber is not optimistic about them signing onto any investigation that might be definitive with respect to their actions during the last election. But here is the story reported by Howard Fischer of the Capitol Times in the Daily Star.

Two state utility regulators want the Arizona Corporation Commission to adopt a formal policy urging utilities to stay out of future races for the panel.

And if the request doesn’t stop the money, they may seek an audit of affected companies to find out exactly how they’re spending their money on politics.

Urging utilities? Future races? May seek an audit? Come on, ACC. Do the audit now!

In pushing the plan, Chairwoman Susan Bitter Smith and member Bob Burns cited media reports of the apparent involvement of Arizona Public Service and Pinnacle West Capital Corp., its parent, in trying to elect two specific Republicans [Commissioners Forese and Little] in the 2014 race by funneling money through outside groups.

APS officials have refused to confirm or deny donations to Save Our Future Now or the Free Enterprise Club, which together spent more than $3 million for commission candidates they supported and against those they oppose. Those groups, in turn, have refused to reveal donors, contending they are "social welfare" groups exempt from state disclosure laws.

To add insult to stonewalling, APS responds with a mountain of B. S.

... company spokesman Alan Bunnell has said APS has been the subject of a "nonstop propaganda war" by pro-solar advocates, saying they have "misrepresented important Arizona energy issues" to further their own interests.

So what comes next?

... in the draft letter, which [Burns and Bitter Smith] want the full commission to adopt as policy, they said that the "right to participate" that APS claims is not the issue. It’s more about appearance.

"We want to make it clear that we view it as unacceptable and inappropriate for public service corporations and unregulated entities to make campaign contributions in support of or in opposition to any candidate for the Corporation Commission," they said in the proposed letter that they want the full commission to essentially adopt as policy and send to utilities. "This behavior has the strong potential to diminish the integrity of the commission and to engender public doubt as to the commission’s ability to discharge its regulatory responsibilities in a fair and unbiased way."

Potential to diminish integrity? Don't look now, but you are already there - it's not about potential - it's now about reality. Consider:

Those questions already have been raised with the 3-2 vote earlier this month allowing APS to seek higher charges from customers who also have solar cells on their roofs, with Burns and Bitter Smith opposed. But it carried with support from Tom Forese and Doug Little, both elected last year with large outside donations from the two "dark money" groups, and Bob Stump, whose cellphone texts around the time of the GOP primary to the pair and APS executives are being probed.

I don't have great expectations about the success of getting these three to admit to their own involvement with APS and the dark money groups in the last election. But Burns and Bitter Smith (appear to) soldier on.

Bitter Smith said she and Burns believe the first step is getting the issue discussed by fellow regulators.

"It would just be a productive opportunity for the commission to collectively articulate what we think the role of entities that appear in front of the commission should have in upcoming elections," she told Capitol Media Services. Bitter Smith said that has to be done formally, as any three of the five commissioners chatting together about such issues would be a violation of the Open Meetings Law.

A commission vote on whether to adopt the letter as policy is set for discussion this coming month.

And the reaction of the other three commissioners?

Forese said his vote [on the APS solar rate increase] had nothing to do with any campaign contributions.

Little declined to discuss the proposal, saying through a spokesman he wants more time to study it. Stump did not respond to messages seeking comment.

I have a measuring device that seems appropo. My Pessimeter is about at maximum. (I checked the other device; the Optimeter reading is in the tank.)

Which organization is more deadly than Al Quaeda? (Cartoon to get you thinking.)

This cartoon, linked here, is from Mike Peters, the editorial cartoonist. h/t Miriam Lindmeier

While I'm at it, along the same lines as Peters' cartoon, let's do some rebranding: "Guns don't kill people. The NRA kills people."

Advance notice: PBS program on "Soul of the Elephant"

Check out the sample/preview video here. And then mark your calendars.

h/t Joyce Boydstun via Facebook

Friday, August 28, 2015

An honest politician stays bought

And that old saying would appear to apply to Doug Little, one of the Arizona Corporation Commissioners whose campaign was helped by dark money (thought to come from APS). Here is the scoop from Laurie Roberts at The Republic/azcentral.com.

Two Commissioners, Bob Burns and Susan Bitter Smith (neither caught up the Stump/Forese/Little APS scandal). introduced an agenda item.

Earlier this week, an item popped up on the agenda for today’s commission meeting, to discuss and possibly vote on whether regulated utilities ought to have to publicly disclose their dark-money maneuvering.

It was placed on the agenda by Commission Chairwoman Susan Bitter Smith and Commissioner Bob Burns. Both are up for re-election next year. Both have asked APS to stay out of next year’s elections.

Asked? Only asked? This is the 4th branch of AZ government run by only 5 elected officials. And they just ask? Take a deep breath and continue.

[The agenda item reads] "Commission discussion, consideration, and possible vote regarding developing correspondence and/or other communications relating to the campaign contribution practices of public service corporations and other entities that appear before the Commission and opening a docket therefor - Commissioner Burns and Chairman Bitter Smith."

In English, that means they are interested in forcing any regulated utility to publicly disclose whether they are engaged in dark-money campaigns to get their favored candidates onto the commission that regulates them.

This morning, Little pulled the item removed from today’s agenda – something a commissioner can do once on any item, in order to delay consideration of an issue.

That effectively blocks the Commission from investigating APS's involvement with dark money in the last election.
But why go through this process at all? Any Commissioner can order APS to open its books. However:

Neither [Burns nor Bitter Smith] ... has been willing to order APS to open its books so we can see whether the utility was behind last year's multi-million dark-money campaigns that landed APS-friendly Tom Forese and Doug Little on the commission.

So while we await some spine on the Commission, we suffer this:

"Delaying the conversation [about the requested APS rate increase] another year basically is a disservice and not in the public interest," Little said, during last week’s vote.

Certainly, it's not in his interest.

Net metering and the Arizona Corporation Commission

Snippets from the AZ Capitol Times guest opinion piece follow. The target is the increased rates on residential solar systems proposed by APS.

I believe many of the Arizona Corporation Commission’s recent decisions to this date surrounding net metering have done more harm than good to our local economy, to businesses like mine, and especially to low-income and middle-class families throughout the state (who would benefit the most from rooftop solar).

These commissioners were elected to represent the people of our state – NOT the utility monopoly that is APS. While I understand many of us could never match the political contributions made by such a large utility, it is not in the best interest of the people to rush a decision that could negatively affect both public perception and the fate of our state for many years to come.

In this state of sunshine, Arizona could and should be a leader in solar power and renewable energy. We should be moving forward, not back. We should be working together towards the goal of helping low-income families utilize the power of the sun to offset exorbitant power bills. We should take our time to develop meaningful policy that serves everyone’s best interests.

At the end of the day, it is the Arizona Corporation Commission’s duty to ensure economic fairness for everyone. That is what they were elected to do. Increasing these charges will have a negative effect on our economy, our people and our future.

Daily Trumpeter (and Quote of the Day): Democrats using Trump to brand Republicans with Latino voters

Check out the video ad in this Plum Line from Greg Sargent at the Washington Post.

"The GOP has given Democrats the raw material, if used properly, to potentially take the Hispanic vote off the table in 2016," [said Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg] ... "These ads signal that Dems understand they can dig the hole so deep for the GOP with Hispanics now that they will never get out no matter who the nominee is in 2016."

One hopes!

Why Republican candidates for President talk economic nonsense, and why we should fear them

Paul Krugman answers both questions in his NT Times column.

... talking nonsense about economic crises is essentially a job requirement for anyone hoping to get the Republican presidential nomination.

To understand why, you need to go back to the politics of 2009, when the new Obama administration was trying to cope with the most terrifying crisis since the 1930s. The outgoing Bush administration had already engineered a bank bailout, but the Obama team reinforced this effort with a temporary program of deficit spending, while the Federal Reserve sought to bolster the economy by buying lots of assets.

... Republicans, across the board, predicted disaster. Deficit spending, they insisted, would cause soaring interest rates and bankruptcy; the Fed’s efforts would "debase the dollar" and produce runaway inflation.

None of it happened. Interest rates stayed very low, as did inflation. But the G.O.P. never acknowledged, after six full years of being wrong about everything, that the bad things it predicted failed to take place, or showed any willingness to rethink the doctrines that led to those bad predictions. Instead, the party’s leading figures kept talking, year after year, as if the disasters they had predicted were actually happening.

Now we’ve had a reminder that something like that last crisis could happen again — which means that we might need a repeat of the policies that helped limit the damage last time. But no Republican dares suggest such a thing.

Instead, even the supposedly sensible candidates call for destructive policies. Thus John Kasich is being portrayed as a different kind of Republican because as governor he approved Medicaid expansion in Ohio, but his signature initiative is a call for a balanced-budget amendment, which would cripple policy in a crisis.

The point is that one side of the political aisle has been utterly determined to learn nothing from the economic experiences of recent years. If one of these candidates ends up in the hot seat the next time crisis strikes, we should be very, very afraid.

In case you missed it: Leonard Pitts on Jimmy Carter and faith

Reprinted from the Daily Star. No commentary needed on this one.

August 26, 2015 7:00 pm • Miami Herald

"To want what I have, to take what I’m given with grace … for this, I pray." — From "For My Wedding," by Don Henley

America is a nation of faith. So it is often said.
In faith, a baker refuses to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding. In faith, a minister prays for the president to die. In faith, terrorists plant bombs at the finish line of a marathon. In faith, mosques are vandalized, shot at and burned. In faith, a televangelist asks his followers to buy him a $65 million private jet.

And no one is even surprised anymore.

In America, what we call faith is often loud, often exclusionary, sometimes violent and too frequently enamored of shiny, expensive things. In faith, ill-tempered people mob the shopping malls every year at Christmas to have fistfights and gunfights over hot toys and high-end electronics.

You did not hear much about faith last week when Jimmy Carter held a press conference to reveal that he has four spots of cancer on his brain. The 39th president made only a few references to it in the nearly 40 minutes he spoke, and they were all in response to reporter’s questions.

Yet, you would be hard-pressed to find a more compelling statement of belief in things not seen. Unsentimental, poised and lit from within by an amazing grace, Carter discussed the fight now looming ahead of him, the radiation treatments he will undergo, the need to finally cut back on his whirlwind schedule.

Read the rest of Pitts' story below the break.

ACLU files law suit against Nevada "school choice" law (aka money laundering scheme)

Here is the story from Education Week.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada says it's filing a lawsuit challenging the state's new, record-breaking school choice law.

The law allows any parent with a child in public school to withdraw his or her kid and use state money toward tuition at religious, private schools.

The ACLU says that goes against Nevada's constitution, which bars public funds from being used for sectarian purposes. The organization is seeking an injunction to stop the program's implementation.

Nuts and Bolts of Nevada's Education Savings Accounts

This summer, Nevada lawmakers passed an expansive school choice program with the most generous eligibility requirements in the country: All students enrolled in public school can enroll in the program.

The state will place money in education savings accounts that parents can use to pay for tuition at a private school, including those that are religiously affiliated, or buy materials for home schooling. Parents could even use the money to mix and match courses and services from private and public sources to create a customized education for their children.

The last paragraph is enticing. What could be better than "a customized education" controlled by parents? Except: this is a money laundering scheme. It gives public money to parents who then give the money to private, religious schools. The scheme is designed to circumvent Nevada's constitutional prohibition against public funding of religious schools. We need to keep the pressure on in AZ to limit this laundering that gives our tax money to madrassas.

Just when you thought it could not be worse ...

... along comes another anti-taxer with a ballot proposition designed to wreck the AZ tax structure. AZBlueMeanie (Blog for Arizona) explains.

There has to come a point when abject wilful ignorance crosses some line over into just pure evil.

That’s how I feel about California transplant Lynn Weaver, who is again chairing a committee for an initiative dubbed "Prop. 13 Arizona." Proposed amendment would freeze property valuations. Her hero is that damned old fool Howard Jarvis, may he rot in hell.

This is Weaver’s fourth bid to put the issue on the ballot. Prior efforts in 2008, 2010 and 2012 failed because Weaver did not collect enough signatures.

Among other things, Weaver's initiative would deprive K-12 of much of its revenue. Meanie quotes the Arizona Republic.

It also phases out the personal-property tax over three years. It implodes the current K-12 public-school-funding formula by eliminating primary and secondary property-tax designations.

Arizona is already dead last in funding of public education, and our lawless Tea-Publican legislature is a deadbeat debtor that refuses to pay the judgment it owes to the state’s school districts — some $1.3 billion in back payments and an estimated $330 million per year going forward in future years — and this ignorant, evil woman wants California’s devastating Prop. 13 in Arizona to make things immeasurably worse.

Arizona desperately needs to get away from its over-reliance on the regressive sales tax for tax revenue and return to a balanced approach of income, property, sales and excise taxes/fees for service to alleviate its structural revenue deficit. Arizona’s tax code needs a complete overhaul, but this is not possible as long as Prop. 108, the "two-thirds for taxes" amendment remains law. Ms. Weaver’s "Prop. 13 Arizona" gimmick would only make our situation in Arizona immeasurably worse.

What we really need in this state is a ballot proposition to repeal Prop. 108 (1992), the "two-thirds for taxes" amendment, aka Arizona’s "Mini-Prop. 13," and repealing the property tax limitations suggested by Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll.

Most of our troubles in this state could be fixed by that one thing - repeal of Prop. 108. Think about it. The quarrel about Medicaid expansion results from the 2/3 rule. So does the "rob Peter to pay Paul" approach by Doozey and the GOP bosses in the Lege.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Judge rules in favor of medicaid expansion

What's new here is a quote by State Sen. Steve Yarbrough (from this morning's Daily Star).

Had [Judge] Gerlach decided otherwise, the $270 million in state dollars used to fund the expansion would have gone away. That, in turn, would have stopped the flow of federal dollars available through the Affordable Care Act, forcing the state to kick those 350,000 people who have been added since the expansion took effect off the rolls. [And the costs of ER treatment born by hospitals would have jumped back up.]

Wednesday’s ruling is unlikely to be the last word. Senate Majority Leader Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, who opposed Medicaid expansion and was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said an appeal is all but certain. [Why not? It's only your tax money he wants to spend.]

And Yarbrough said it is legally irrelevant if a higher court sides with him and hundreds of thousands of people lose health care. He said that’s not the issue.

"It was never, ever, in my mind about the folks who were being funded or not," he said. "It was simply about what the constitution says and what it contemplates."

Here is some rebranding: "Phoenix: A Town without Pity"

Historic meeting between Republicans and Obama results in civility and compromise

Watch Obama finesse these GOP goons. Then watch the senior Republican as he cuts off his tongue to spite his face.

Here is the link to the video. h/t Pat Canady via Facebook

Arizona Legislature steals from preschoolers, future children, to fund education mandate

Now that the talks about court-ordered education funding have broken down, Guv Doozey and the Greedy Old Politicians in the state lege are whipping up a new recipe for pumping money into our public education. Basically the scheme is "rob Peter to pay Paul." The first dollop of sour milk was the proposal to rob the state land trust thus taking money from future educational needs to pay for current educational needs. (The new state treasurer objected and ran into the dark money mean machine.) The second dollop of rotten apples was the proposal to take money from early childhood education to pay the K-12 education bill. AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona has the story.

BTW: even our Republican LD2 rep, Chris Ackerley, sees the problem. Quoting a Capitol Times report:

Rep. Chris Ackerley, R-Sahuarita, said the new plan put forward from GOP leadership appears to "rob Peter to pay Paul."

and Republican lawmakers have taken any kind of tax increase for education funding off the table, and without increased revenues, Ackerley said it will be difficult to find the money courts have declared that the Legislature owes.

"It would be nice if we could build a budget from the ground up, and say here are the services we need to provide, here’s what it’s going to cost us, and here’s how we’re going to raise the money. In that order. But that’s not how we do things," he said.

The Republican proposals seem doomed to failure. The land use funds and the First Things First program are citizen initiatives and hence require a vote of the people. That didn't work the first time the Godawful Oligarchy of Patriarchs tried it. From the Capitol Times again:

The leaders said it will come from ... a partial shift of money from First Things First early childhood education program, and "a plan to use increased earnings from the state trust land" — both of which require voter approval.

In the past, the voter-approved program has resisted diverting any of its funds to pay for state operations. The last time legislators tried to sweep funds from the agency, they lost in court ... Voters also rejected lawmakers’ attempt to dismantle the program in 2010, when the public rejected a referral targeting the Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health Board by a 70-30 margin ...

The last piece of the funding formula incorporates Ducey’s proposal to draw down funding from sales of state land trust, which the governor’s office estimates will generate roughly $2.2 billion over 10 years. However, Biggs said Ducey’s proposal would likely need to be adjusted to please enough legislators to send it to the ballot. [And it is opposed by the State Treasurer.]

BlueMeanie has said it before and says it again.

What our Tea-Publican legislators and governor are doing to Arizona’s children ought to be considered criminal. These Tea-Publicans should be doing time for their theft of education funds intended for our children. The deprivation of an education is a form of child abuse. They should have to pay more than mere restitution for their crime.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Attorney tells Corporation Commissioner Bitter Smith and her trade association to preserve records

Susan Bitter Smith may be in violation of Arizona statutes, says Attorney Tom Ryan. Here is another piece of this story from KJZZ.

A local attorney filed letters Tuesday with the Arizona Corporation Commission and Commissioner Susan Bitter Smith’s trade association demanding they preserve various documents in anticipation of a potential lawsuit.

Tom Ryan, who is known for pursuing high-profile cases against local politicians, stated in the ‘litigation hold’ letters he has evidence that may prove Bitter Smith violated a commissioner-specific conflict of interest-type law. He said he is preparing to file a complaint with Attorney General Mark Brnovich calling for Bitter Smith's removal from office.

"I am in possession of evidence which shows that you have official relations with and are pecuniarily interested in the telecommunications industry in Arizona," Ryan wrote. "Further, this evidence tends to show that you have had such relations and interests while you were a candidate for the office of commissioner. If true, this would mean that your conduct is in violation of (Arizona Revised Statute) 40-101 … and could face removal from office."

Ryan’s letters were delivered a day after KJZZ raised questions about possible conflicts of interest pertaining to Bitter Smith, a Republican and chair of the commission, and her ties with the cable and telecommunications industries. Ryan had previously told KJZZ he was considering filing a complaint with the Attorney General.

Questions stem from the fact that Bitter Smith is a registered lobbyist for Cox Communications and executive director of Southwest Cable Communications Association, a cable industry-trade group based in Phoenix.

For a recap of the various legal and political problems faced by all five ACC Commissioners, see my post from a couple of days ago.

Republican legislators lose suit to overturn AZ Medicaid expansion

Noon, Aug. 26. Here is a Facebook post from AZ State Sen. Steve Farley.

The Science Guy: Racism has no basis in nature

Tribalism, on the other hand, ... Check it out here.

Daily Trumpeter: Trump makes immigration central issue in 2016 - Gracias, Donald.

Check out this video of a young Latina calling out Trump for his anti-Hispanic rants.

Daily Trumpeter: Univision reporter Jorge Ramos snubbed/ejected/debated.

The last one is itself debatable. It seemed to me that they were talking through/past/over each other. That only happened after Trump had Ramos removed from the room and then let him return after a barrage of pointed questions from the rest of the press. Somehow I don't think that Trump scored points with the Hispanic voters.

But anyway you see it, this is a preview of life under President Trump. He cannot be everywhere, so there will be some cadre of folks like his bodyguard (who did the ejecting) around to keep the press in line.

The story is all over the web. Here is one from NY Times.

AZ public education funding talks fail to reach settlement

Here is the press release from the Arizona Education Association.

Phoenix, AZ — August 25, 2015 — Negotiations between the state of Arizona and the plaintiffs in Cave Creek v. Ducey (now Cave Creek v. DeWit) have reached impasse. The Coalition of plaintiff school districts and education organizations, including the Arizona Education Association, engaged in a prolonged effort to settle the dispute, but a settlement could not be reached.

The plaintiffs brought forward this lawsuit in 2010 to challenge the state’s refusal to fund inflation under the voter mandate of Proposition 301. Almost two years ago, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in favor of public schools, ordering the state to fund the Proposition 301 inflation factor for public school funding. These annual cost-of-living adjustments protect education funding from the effects of inflation. To implement the Supreme Court’s order, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper ordered the state to reset the education funding base level. This reset would have added over $300 million to K-12 funding in the current year alone.

"The failure to reach an acceptable settlement is disappointing," says Arizona Education Association President Andrew F. Morrill. "Our students need immediate support from the state. It’s time our leaders put Arizona and our children first. Arizona has $785 million in state reserves. Governor Ducey should call a special session and demand legislators get this money into our classrooms now. Students are returning to classrooms for a new school year while our state faces historic numbers of teachers leaving the profession due to a lack of resources."

Arizona ranks last or near the bottom in per-student spending and in average teacher salaries. The Arizona Legislature has refused to fund public education in compliance with the law since 2009, depriving Arizona’s students of over $1 billion in K-12 funding.

Since the settlement talks were confidential, all parties are prohibited by court order from discussing the terms of the negotiations. However, the Coalition members believe that Arizona’s students should be the state’s number one priority and remain committed to settling the inflation lawsuit. The Coalition members remain willing to consider any reasonable option that secures the necessary and required additional funding for Arizona’s public schools.

AZ, speaking through its Greedy Old Politicians in the legislature, has voiced its priorities. And education is not one of them. That will take some rebranding by Gov. Doozey's team.

Why Obama is the anti-lame-duck president

Kevin Drum (motherjones.com) quotes movie-maker Quentin Tarantino:

You supported Obama. How do you think he’s done?
I think he’s fantastic. He’s my favorite president, hands down, of my lifetime. He’s been awesome this past year. Especially the rapid, one-after-another-after-another-after-another aspect of it. It’s almost like take no prisoners. His he-doesn’t-give-a-shit attitude has just been so cool. Everyone always talks about these lame-duck presidents. I’ve never seen anybody end with this kind of ending. All the people who supported him along the way that questioned this or that and the other? All of their questions are being answered now.

Then follows a listing of what Obama has done in his last term, quoted here by Greg Sargent at the Washington Post/Plum Line.

By way of illustration, Drum compiles a list of all of the actions Obama has taken since Dems got washed out in the 2014 midterms, in order to demonstrate how active his presidency has been thus far in his second term:

  1. Normalized relations with Cuba.
  2. Signed a climate deal with China.
  3. Issued new EPA ozone rules.
  4. Successfully argued in favor of same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court.
  5. Put in place economic sanctions on Russia that have Vladimir Putin reeling.
  6. Pressured the FCC to approve net neutrality rules.
  7. Issued new EPA coal regulations.
  8. Issued an executive order on immigration.
  9. Got fast track authority for TPP and seems poised to pass it.
  10. Signed a nuclear deal with Iran and appears on track to get it passed.
  11. Won yet another Supreme Court case keeping Obamacare intact.
  12. Issued new rules that increase the number of "managers" who qualify for overtime pay.
  13. Presided over the birth of twin giant panda babies at Washington, D.C.’s, National Zoo.

What’s particularly striking is how many of these major moves have been embraced by likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and have been opposed by the 2016 GOP presidential candidates — and will thus form the basis for the broad contrasts that will drive next year’s presidential race. (I’ve taken the liberty of bolding the initiatives above that fall into this category.)

...

[For example:] Clinton has vowed to build on Obamacare’s coverage expansion; the 2016 GOP candidates are all vowing to repeal it, and those who are purporting to offer their own plans would, at a minimum, roll that coverage achievement back. Clinton endorsed Obama’s executive actions shielding millions from deportation; the 2016 GOP candidates have pledged to reverse them. By the way, the battle over those actions could be headed to the Supreme Court next year, right when the presidential race is in full swing.

And finally, all the 2016 GOP candidates have pledged to ship those baby pandas back to China on Day One, too. (Okay, I made that last one up. But no one has yet asked Donald Trump to detail his plans for them and thus dictate the agenda for the rest of the GOP field, so who knows.)

Daily Trumpeter: Trump's lead in polls increases, New Hampshire voter says "Woo Hoo!"

I think at least one NH voter would say that. Steve Benen (MSNBC/RachelMaddowShow) reports on the new poll results.

It’s certainly possible that, one day soon, the Donald Trump balloon will burst and the race for the Republican nomination will return to something resembling normalcy.

But today is not that day. Public Policy Polling released new survey results this morning out of New Hampshire, the nation’s first primary state.

  1. Donald Trump: 35%
  2. John Kasich: 11%
  3. Carly Fiorina: 10%
  4. Jeb Bush: 7%
  5. Scott Walker: 7%
  6. Ben Carson: 6%

A new poll in South Carolina also has Trump way ahead.

What’s especially striking about Trump’s support is how broad it is: he leads among South Carolina Republicans who describe themselves as "very conservative," "somewhat conservative," and "moderate to liberal." Despite his general secularism, the New York real-estate developer also leads among evangelical Christians, picking up 33% of their support.

That Trump has a shady business record apparently is either not well known or disregarded by his supporters (see my previous posts here and here).

That says something about Republican voters. You can fill in that blank.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Chronicle of new lows

New Low #1: Superintendent of Public Instruction files charge of assault against State Board of Education President

Actually, this one should be attributed to Republican voters who mindlessly bubbled Diane Douglas into office. She is too busy fighting education to be administering it.

New Low #2: Candidates for President shirk responsibility; Trump is the worst.

Catherine Rampell at Washington Post roasts some candidates for their lack of candor. Hillary's email is a persisting mark against her, but Trump's business dealings really stink, marking him as more of a taker than maker.

Corporation Commission Corruption Count now 5/5: Bitter Smith may have to swallow a bitter pill

To recap the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) saga.

  • BOBghazi STUMPgate got himself in trouble for texting APS lobbyists and dark money guys and then deleting the texts and trashing the iPhone. Just 73 text messages to work out a social date, he said.
  • The campaigns of newly elected commissioners Tom Forese and Doug Little were financed by monies widely believed to have come from Arizona Public Service (APS), a utility regulated by ACC.
  • Lest you had any doubt about what APS bought: these three guys voted to keep APS's solar rate increase on the table and not have it be part of a comprehensive rate case in 2016. (The media was most happy - at least they didn't vote to give APS the money right now!)
  • Commissioner Bob Burns went public with his idea that the solution to all this was to make it harder for the public and press to get access to Commission correspondence. Cover it up, Bob!
  • Keeping count? That's only 4/5. So this sorry story is about #5: Susan Bitter Smith.

This story is from investigations done by KJZZ. It starts here.

Tom Ryan is an Arizona attorney who is known for pursuing high-profile cases against politicians such as former Attorney General Tom Horne and former state Sen. Russell Pearce.

Ryan said he’s considering filing a complaint with the attorney general’s office calling for the removal of Commission Chair Susan Bitter Smith.

"This will not go quietly in the night and whoever she retains will no doubt fight it tooth and nail," Ryan said. "But the state of Arizona deserves a Corporation Commission that is not bought and paid for by the very people it’s supposed to regulate, the very industries it’s supposed to regulate."

Right on, but what's this about?

Bitter Smith, a Republican, is a registered lobbyist for Cox Communications, a status she's held long before her 2012 election to the commission.

Cox is regulated for cable by the Federal Communications Commission and local municipalities. But because it also offers telephone services, Cox is regulated by the corporation commission, which oversees the local telecommunications industry.

Above is the short of it. Following is a disclosure.

That caught the eye of a Washington, D.C., watchdog group called the Checks and Balances Project, which has been in a highly publicized struggle with the commission this year for access to Commissioner Bob Stump’s cellphone records.

Checks and Balances raised conflict questions about Bitter Smith to KJZZ, which then conducted independent research and reporting that included a review of various public documents, tax records and interviews with Bitter Smith, former commissioners, a former attorney general and various ethics and Constitutional law experts and attorneys.

And here is what the KJZZ investigation unearthed.

Bitter Smith told KJZZ that being a registered lobbyist for Cox doesn’t violate any laws.

Whaaa? She's elected to regulate the company she lobbies for? Legal, Smeagol. (Subtle, I know - check out the Lord of the Rings.)

Bitter Smith said she’s never been paid to lobby for Cox, nor has she ever actually lobbied for Cox.

"I’m not an employee, never have been an employee, never have had any relationship with Cox directly," Bitter Smith said. "I’ve always worked for the cable TV association."

She’s referring to the Southwest Cable Communications Association, a cable industry trade group where Bitter Smith is executive director.

Cox is one of her members, and the association, which is also a registered lobbying group, sponsors events and luncheons to which lawmakers are invited and Cox employees attend, she said.

So she said the lobbyist registration is simply for the purpose of putting everything out in the open.

"It’s just an abundance of caution to do that," she said. "I think it’s good. I think it creates huge transparency."

And it highlights a huge conflict of interest, does it not?

A handful of Cox and Suddenlink employees also sit on the association’s board of directors, which approves Bitter Smith's employment as executive director and her $150,000-plus annual salary, according to Bitter Smith and the group’s tax records and website. That’s roughly 40 percent of the group’s annual revenue, the vast majority of which is derived from member dues.

Bitter Smith stresses the telecom entities she regulates at the commission are always legally and financially separate businesses from the cable side of companies like Cox and Suddenlink.

"The video side of Cox is a member of the cable association. The telephone side is not. There’s no nexus there," she said. "Their budgets are set in separate divisions and corporate entities. They are separate financially. They have to be because that’s how they’re taxed, that’s how they’re filing their financial reports."

OK - read the full KJZZ report because there are more smeagolistic subtleties here that will tie your brain in knots. In the meantime, one might think that a commissioner with these ties would recuse herself - every time a related case came before the Commission.

She recused herself four of those times, such as last year when a tariff increase was approved for Cox.

But she didn't recuse herself on three matters, which she said was accidental, including another tariff increase for Cox approved in 2013.

"Probably should have, just didn’t catch it," she said."It was on the consent agenda, I zoomed through."

She also didn't recuse herself in May from voting to rescind a $225,000-bond requirement for Mercury Voice & Data, an entity identified in public documents as doing business in Arizona as Suddenlink Communications. She said she missed that one accidentally as well.

"Suddenlink is my member, Mercury Voice & Data is not an entity that I’m familiar with," Bitter Smith said. "If I had understood, I probably would have, you know, just for optics sake. There’s no legal reason I would need to do that but, had I understood that there was another entity that they now form with a new name, separate entity with a new name, I probably would have."

In short, SBS, is not on top of it, not doing her homework, just drawing some extra salary from the ACC (meaning you taxpayers).

Like I said, the whole case here is edgy. Here is the KJZZ conclusion.

Craig Holman with the Washington, D.C., government watchdog group Public Citizen said conflict of interest laws are purposefully designed to be complex because they deal with abstract things, such as appearances of impropriety.

"A good conflict of interest law would not allow this person to sit on this corporate commission," Holman said. "That raises that appearance of conflict of interest and this is where conflict of interest laws are supposed to step in."

Renz Jennings, the former commissioner who was the petitioner in the West case [in which an elected Commissioner was removed], said he’s surprised Bitter Smith didn’t sever her outside ties before taking office.

"If this is lawful, then the statute should be changed so that it isn’t lawful," Jennings said. "There’s a clear risk that she is going to be wearing the wrong hat when she’s making a decision based on where her own self interests lie versus where the public interest lies."

Five of five. The Corporation Commission Corruption Coefficient just maxed out at 1.0.

From the perspective of a taxpayer and voter, game over. It is not enough to vote for these people because they share a political party affiliation. We need Commissioners who work for the public interest, not against it.

Monday, August 24, 2015

AZ SoS Michele Reagan won't do anything about dark money ...

... despite campaign promises, and won't let the Citizen Clean Election Commission do anything either.

But the curious thing is: the CCEC is trying in spite of her threats.

A lengthy summary of Reagan's spat with CCEC is reported here by Craig McDermott at Blog for Arizona. He includes Reagan's history with election reform legislation (aka voter suppression bills). Here is the short of it.

Reagan’s conflict with the Citizens Clean Election Commission seems to rise from the fact that they aren’t willing to be paper tigers, unwilling to do anything to upset the dark money-fueled gravy train that so many at the state capitol so enthusiastically ride.

Maybe if, instead of just talking a good game, Reagan was interested in doing her job conscientiously and honorably, it wouldn’t be necessary for the CCEC to intervene.

I would not wait for that. Remember Reagan's role in HB2305 (aka the voter suppression bill)?

[While in the AZ Senate] Her "reforms" were almost all about voter suppression and while Reagan’s bills died, the voter suppression clauses were folded into the now-infamous HB2305.

She wasn’t listed as one of the sponsors of the bill (plausible deniability?), but she was one the conference committee members that help to turn a previously (relatively) innocuous bill into a true nugget of ugly.

That bill was passed and signed into law by then-Governor Jan Brewer.

It was then subject to a petition effort to refer it to the 2014 ballot to be overturned (or upheld) by the voters.

The petition drive was successful, more or less.

Enough signatures were gathered to freeze implementation of the measure and refer it to the ballot.

The lege, still having a few active brain cells under their tin foil tricorner hats and realizing that having on the ballot something that would serve to highlight GOP voter suppression efforts would be very bad (for them, anyway), promptly repealed HB2305 during the early days of the 2014 session, rendering the petition drive/ballot referral moot.

If anyone wants to do anything about dark money, Michele Reagan is the very last person you should trust.

Cartoons to soothe your weekly fears

From, as always, AZBueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Why Trump will not go away

The NY Times reviews Trump's appeal to LOTS of Americans.

A review of public polling, extensive interviews with a host of his supporters in two states and a new private survey that tracks voting records all point to the conclusion that Mr. Trump has built a broad, demographically and ideologically diverse coalition, constructed around personality, not substance, that bridges demographic and political divides. In doing so, he has effectively insulated himself from the consequences of startling statements that might instantly doom rival candidates.

In poll after poll of Republicans, Mr. Trump leads among women, despite having used terms like "fat pigs" and "disgusting animals" to denigrate some of them. He leads among evangelical Christians, despite saying he had never had a reason to ask God for forgiveness. He leads among moderates and college-educated voters, despite a populist and anti-immigrant message thought to resonate most with conservatives and less-affluent voters. He leads among the most frequent, likely voters, even though his appeal is greatest among those with little history of voting.

...

"Right now I don’t have a second choice," [one Trump supporter] said. "They all blend in to me. It’s Donald Trump — and everyone else."

"My second choice," he added, "might be staying at home."

Daily Trumpeter: Trump provides cover for the clowns

That's the conclusion of Craig McDermott at B4AZ.

Some people think that GOP candidate for president Donald Trump is "sucking the air out of the room", making it impossible for the other candidates in the field to be heard or gain traction.

I think that instead he is providing cover for them. They get to say some of the most insane, bigoted, and hypocritical things but with public and MSM attention focused on Trump’s latest bout of racism/misogyny/general misanthropy, only the GOP base hears the dog whistles of the rest of the field.

McDermott then lists the insane things said by the Cleveland Clowns and Clownettes. Here are some of my faves from supposedly the less insane clowns.

Jeb Bush – Embraced the nativist wing of the national GOP by defending the use of, and using, the ethnic slur "anchor baby"

John Kasich – Called for the banning of teacher’s lounges in schools because he thinks that all teachers do there is complain

Carly Fiorina – Tried to weasel her way into gaining support from the anti-vaxxer wing of the GOP by advocating making vaccines for non-communicable diseases optional. One problem: every one of the main vaccines given to children as part of going to school is for a communicable disease

Check out the list. You will find much to despise. McDermott concludes:

In most cycles, nearly every single one of the above examples would be cause for a major uproar; in the Year of Trump, they are barely a blip on the MSM’s, and voters’, radars.

Daily Trumpeter: Trump fires up racist crowd

Here's a report on Trump's Alabama appearance.

GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump took his road show to Alabama Friday night, appearing at Ladd–Peebles Stadium before a crowd estimated at 20,000, many of whom matter-of-factly shared their racist views with visiting reporters.

As Trump spoke to to his assembled fans and curiosity seekers, one man could be heard yelling "white power!"

Trumps (sic) comments found favor with many in the cheering crowd with one local man, Jim Sherotta, 53, telling a reporter from AL.com, he’d like to see bounties placed upon the heads of undocumented workers coming over the border.

"Hopefully, he’s going to sit there and say, ‘When I become elected president, what we’re going to do is we’re going to make the border a vacation spot, it’s going to cost you $25 for a permit, and then you get $50 for every confirmed kill,'" Sherota explained. "That’d be one nice thing."

Sherrota later stated that he was just kidding.

I am not so sure about that.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Borowitz Report: Trump considers quitting campaign because of low racist turnout in Alabama

Well, not exactly. But Andy Borowitz describes how disappointing that crowd of 20K must have been.

MOBILE (The Borowitz Report)—A rally featuring a racist speaker Friday night in Mobile attracted a crowd of just twenty thousand people, widely considered a disappointing turnout for a racist event in Alabama.

According to racist event planners in the state, a crowd of twenty thousand would rank the event as one of the smaller racist rallies in Alabama this year.

American internet access: The exceptional dream, the terrible reality

Americans think of themselves as exceptional in many ways. But too often the reality is harshly different. Internet access is one example explored by Bill Moyers in a 2013 program from his Moyers and Company. (I offer this one to you ICYMI (in case you missed it - I certainly did!)

The interview with Susan Crawford is in this Facebook post and linked elsewhere.

Susan Crawford, former special assistant to President Obama for science, technology and innovation, and author of Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, joins Bill to discuss how our government has allowed a few powerful media conglomerates to put profit ahead of the public interest — rigging the rules, raising prices, and stifling competition. As a result, Crawford says, all of us are at the mercy of the biggest business monopoly since Standard Oil in the first Gilded Age a hundred years ago.

"The rich are getting gouged, the poor are very often left out, and this means that we’re creating, yet again, two Americas, and deepening inequality through this communications inequality," Crawford tells Bill.

Europe, for example, enjoys very fast fiber optic connectivity. America is stuck with slower copper wire. And we pay two to three times as much for that inferior service. As a society, we pay in other ways: the income disparity in America is correlated with access to the internet. Poorer households tend not to have access. So the transmission of our very culture is restricted to the richer Americans. And all that is due to the regulatory environment - or lack of it - and the failure of the "free market" to operate for the good of the consumer.

Moyers closed the interview by eliciting Crawford's reactions to three topics.

The need: "All Americans need a fast cheap connection to the internet"
The problem: "A few companies control access in America and its not in their interest to bring that fast cheap access to us all."
The solution: "The solution is for people to care about this issue, ask hard questions at every debate, make sure you elect people who will act, and give your mayor air cover so he or she can act to make sure that your city has this fast competitive access."

Postscript: There was an effort to get Crawford appointed as FCC chairwoman. See, for example, this change.org page. But the job went to another guy from the industry; here is the bio at FCC.

But it's a dry hate: Gov. Doug Doozy meets a mad man

And the slogans flowed forth. Here is Dave Fitzsimmons' account of the historic meeting.

The Borowitz Report: Voters want a wall on our border stretching from San Francisco to New Orleans

As usual, Andy says it a little differently. Snippets follow.

Amid the growing debate over building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, a new poll shows that voters who strongly favor building such a wall cannot successfully identify the border on a map.

Being told that they had incorrectly identified the U.S.-Mexico border did not in any way dampen voters’ enthusiasm for building a wall there, however.

To the contrary, voters believed that it would be easier to locate the border once it had a twenty-foot wall.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Associated Press suckered by leaked document on Iran nuclear site: Experts say Parchin is no big deal

This post is based on three reports from different sources: Vox.com 1, Huffington Post 2, and MSNBC/Rachel Maddow 3. Snippets are interleaved and will be footnoted as above.

The story begins here.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Associated Press published an exclusive report on the Iran nuclear program so shocking that many political pundits declared the nuclear deal dead in the water. But the article turned out to be a lot less damning that it looked — and the AP, which scrubbed many of the most damning details, is now itself part of this increasingly bizarre story. 1

This all started when the Associated Press published a story with an alarming headline: "AP Exclusive: UN to let Iran inspect alleged nuke work site."1

The headline made it sound like Iran would get to self-inspect, which would indeed be appalling. Readers were given the impression that President Obama had made a catastrophically foolish concession to the Iranians; that our much-touted inspections regime was a big joke. And indeed, a number of prominent political journalists tweeted out the story with exactly this alarmed interpretation. 1

It did not take long for the hawks to pounce.

Critics of the Iranian nuclear deal declared vindication, citing the report as evidence that the broader nuclear agreement negotiated between Iran, the U.S. and five world powers was flawed. "How does this not set a precedent for future inspections at suspicious military sites in Iran?" asked House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), suggesting that the Iranians would be entrusted to oversee their own nuclear inspections going forward. 2

Soon after, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) pointed to the same AP report as damning proof of how right Republicans are about the international agreement. "This revelation only reinforces the deep-seated concerns the American people have about the agreement," Cornyn said in a statement. 3

The Obama administration and the IAEA responded.

On Thursday, State Department spokesman John Kirby hedged towards an outright denial of the AP report, saying the IAEA would "in no way" give the Iranians the authority to conduct their own inspections of Parchin. "That is not how the IAEA does business," he said. 2

The IAEA has declined to confirm or deny the specifics of the AP's findings, but reiterated that the confidential arrangements are in line with the organization’s verification practices and requirements. "I am disturbed by statements suggesting that the IAEA has given responsibility for nuclear inspections to Iran," wrote IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano on Thursday in a statement. "Such statements misrepresent the way in which we will undertake this important verification work." 2

The thing is: the Parchin site has been known to investigators for years and has been monitored via satellite.

The bottom line here is that this is all over a mild and widely anticipated compromise on a single set of inspections to a single, long-dormant site [Parchin]. The AP, deliberately or not, has distorted that into something that sounds much worse, but actually isn't. The whole incident is a fascinating, if disturbing, example of how misleading reporting on technical issues can play into the politics of foreign policy. 1

Vox's reporter interviewed Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert at Middlebury College's Monterey Institute of International Studies.

I think there are some people who really want an Iranian admission of guilt not because it helps to verify the [nuclear] deal [with Iran], but because they will then use that on the front page of the New York Times to end support for the deal ," Lewis said. 1

Lewis suspects that the point of the leak was to make the IAEA agreement on Parchin sound as bad as possible, and to generate political attention in Washington, with the hopes that political types who do not actually understand normal verification and inspection procedures — much less the Parchin issue — will start making demands. 1

"Normally people don't care about this kind of thing," Lewis said. "Normally, if the IAEA is satisfied, everyone is satisfied. But now [with this story] the IAEA being satisfied is now no longer good enough; people are going to insist that they personally be satisfied." 1

This time, though, it was in the Associated Press. This is certainly not the first time that someone has placed a strategic leak in order to achieve a political objective. But it is disturbing that the AP allowed itself to be used in this way, that it exaggerated the story in a way that have likely misled large numbers of people, and that, having now scrubbed many of the details, it has appended no note or correction explaining the changes. It is not a proud moment for journalism. 1

P. S.

The AZ Daily Star also published the AP story. Here is this morning's reaction from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

So here’s the deal: The Arizona Daily Star published a report with an alarming above-the-fold headline that all the experts say is wrong and is "misleading," and was based on information leaked to an AP reporter for political motives. The P5+1 world powers nuclear agreement with Iran is of utmost national security interest.

Journalistic ethics requires a retraction, publishing a correction — preferably Max Fisher’s article at Vox.com above — and an editorial opinion explaining why the Star was wrong to publish this misleading AP report and is now retracting and correcting the report by publishing more accurate reporting.

Write your letters to the editor.

The Republic/azcentral suckered by Corporation Commission vote

If you have been following this story, you know that the AZ Corporation Commission voted to hold a hearing on the APS request for a levy on rooftop solar installations. They could have granted the APS request, granted, and they did not. but they could have voted to roll the request into the scheduled June 2016 overall rate hearing that was recommended by former commissioners but they did not. APS was most pleased. The story on the vote from azcentral.com is here and my blog about it is here.

From my blog and the azcentral.com story about that vote:

Utility regulators voted Tuesday to set hearings that could lead to a vote on higher fees for Arizona Public Service Co. customers who install solar, but only after an analysis of the costs and benefits of rooftop panels.

Commissioners Bob Stump and Tom Forese voted with Little. Commissioners Susan Bitter Smith and Bob Burns opposed the measure.

So those three commissioners voting in favor of a separate "analysis" are those most tainted by dark money thought to come from APS in the last election.

What does The Republic/azcentral.com editorial board think about that vote? Here is what they had to say.

They lead with the headline: "Our View: Maybe these commissioners can't be bought". OK, what's the evidence?

APS asked the commission to raise a fee on its rooftop-solar customers to an average $21 per customer, a four-fold increase from the current average of $5.

The utility wanted that approval immediately. Solar supporters wanted the issue considered in a full-blown rate hearing, which would open the entirety of the utility’s financial records. The next one is scheduled for June 2016.

Instead, the commission voted to isolate solar-customer fees as a stand-alone issue and consider the costs and benefits of solar panels apart from APS’s other rates. The commissioners insist there are no pre-ordained conclusions. The facts will guide their vote, they say, and the hearings will be as long as they take.

There are merits to focusing on solar-customer fees. A full-blown utility rate case is a behemoth of data and sworn testimony. Even an issue as vital to the future of the energy industry as solar theoretically could get swamped in corporate financial numbers.

So the case against waiting for a "full-blown utility rate case" is that we have to suffer "data"? We have to look at "numbers"? They have a point. The average citizen's eyes cross when they have to add and subtract.

The debate is over rooftop solar’s net effect on the utility’s bottom line. Does it add value? Solar proponents argue it does. Or do solar customers, who are still connected to the traditional grid, add costs to non-solar customers?

You only find the bottom line at the bottom of everything else. It takes a full rate case to figure that out.

Still, as long as all the data gets put on the table, an open-ended hearing on rooftop solar may have value.

But by definition, "all the data" will NOT be on the table.

On a 3-2 vote, the commissioners backed away from the edge. They should have backed up further. But by refusing to give APS, widely believed to be the benefactor of two of the commissioners during the 2014 elections, exactly what it wanted, the commission asserted a much-needed measure of independence.

Remember exactly which three commissioners voted that way? Remember APS's pleased response?

Its reputation as an independent regulatory commission could have been devastated. Its choice was that big.

Agreed, the choice was that big. But the Commission's reputation is already in the tank.

The commissioners didn’t stepped (sic) over the precipice. Not yet.

Yes, they did. And "not yet"? Meaning the Editorial Board expects further cow-towing to APS from this Commission?

Maybe the Commission can jump on the move to rebrand crAZy. The first step is to buy a lot of lipstick. The pig needs it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Just when you thought the GOP rhetoric could not be worse: Ben Carson wants to use drones on the border

There is an old saying in the community of psychologists: Psychologists study what ails them. I propose something similar applies to neurosurgeons: Neurosurgeons study what ails them. In the case of GOP candidate Ben Carson, the object of study is the brain. Carson is interested in that organ because his is so damned small.

As evidence I offer this summary of Carson's remarks (by AZBlueMeanie) on the occasion of his campaign visit to crAZy.

Ben Carson visited the Mexico-Arizona border today and brought the cray-cray, suggesting that the U.S. military should use drone strikes, i.e., the summary execution of persons crossing the border without due process of law, to secure the border. I’m guessing this is good for a few more percentage points in that GOP poll.

Soooo, militarize the border, shoot to kill, ask questions later. Your move, Donald. Maybe declare war on Mexico?

Lipstick on a pig alert: Call for action on Doug Doozy's crAZy rebranding scheme

AZBlueMeanie has a summary of some top 10 lists of rebranding ideas and asks for you to contribute your own crAZy ideas.

The only way to stop this enormous waste of taxpayer money enriching one of Governor Ducey’s cronies in the advertising business is to mock it to death. Post, repost on Facebook, tweet and re-tweet on Twitter. You know what to do.

"Arizona: pissing away your tax dollars one gimmick at a time."

Arizonans who want to offer their input on this enormous waste of taxpayer money on Governor Ducey’s rebranding Arizona campaign should e-mail promoteaz@azcommerce.com, or you can post comments on Twitter ... [check out BlueMeanie's post for examples]

Of Course Not: crAZy corruption won the APS vote in the Corporation Commission

Here is a synopsis. APS wants to raise rates for rooftop solar users. Opponents claim it will do serious harm to the solar industry, the industry that APS is trying to scuttle. Outside experts, former commissioners, recommend deferring action to a full blown rate case hearing. Before the Commission is the decision to take up the APS request now or to wait for the rate hearing.

Here is what I wrote yesterday.

Will the commission deny APS's request? I will be surprised if it does. The taint of dark money now infects the Commission as an institution. The silence of Commissioner Bitter Smith is damning. The attempt by Commissioner Burns to change the law to make public access to public records more difficult is the nail in the Commission coffin. Even if APS's request is justified, if the Commission approves it, that will be the mental cement that ties APS-related dark money to the Commission.

Will the Commission do the right thing? This is perilously close to inclusion in my series Of Course Not.

The three remaining commissioners not named above, are the most seriously tainted by dark money (thought by many to come from APS). Forese and Little got a lot of dark money in their 2014 campaign. Stump, by appearance from his text messages to APS lobbyists, for example, might have orchestrated some or all of that. So how did they vote yesterday?

Commissioners Bob Stump and Tom Forese voted with Little. Commissioners Susan Bitter Smith and Bob Burns opposed the measure.

But what they voted on was to proceed with analysis and eventual action on the APS case starting now, that is, separate from any overall rate case. Above quote and following quote are from The Republic/azcentral.com report.

Utility regulators voted Tuesday to set hearings that could lead to a vote on higher fees for Arizona Public Service Co. customers who install solar, but only after an analysis of the costs and benefits of rooftop panels.

In the last election, APS got what it needed. A majority of commissioners in its pocket. crAZy? Maybe. Corruption? Sure.

Was I wrong in my suspicions about what would happen? Do I have any doubt about the eventual outcome? Do you?

Of Course Not.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Borowitz Report: GOP wants to include deportation as one of the 14th Amendment protections

Andy says it a little differently here.

Eager to shore up their pro-life credentials, several Republican Presidential candidates used campaign appearances on Wednesday to assert that the babies of undocumented workers have the right to be born and then immediately deported.

Daily Trumpeter: "The 14th Amendment is unconstitutional"

You would think, maybe, that really staunch conservatives would defend the Constitution of the United States against any sort of attack. You would be wrong. (Or maybe I am naive in thinking that conservatives believe in the Constitution.) Donald Trump, and some of the other Cleveland Clowns, want to ditch the 14th Amendment. You know. The one that says that you and I are citizens of the United States. By reason of birth.

Here is a report from Politico about how Trump plans to proceed.

Donald Trump clashed with Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday night over the part of his immigration plan that would take away citizenship from the children who were born in the United States but whose parents came to the country illegally.

Under the 14th Amendment, O’Reilly told Trump on "The O’Reilly Factor," mass deportations of so-called birthright citizens cannot happen.

Trump disagreed, and said that "many lawyers are saying that’s not the way it is in terms of this."

As to federal police kicking in doors to abduct sons and daughters of immigrants? Trump did not rule it out.

O’Reilly then asked Trump if he envisions "federal police kicking in the doors in barrios around the country dragging families out and putting them on a bus" as a means to deport everyone he intends to deport.

"I don’t think they have American citizenship, and if you speak to some very, very good lawyers — some would disagree. But many of them agree with me — you’re going to find they do not have American citizenship. We have to start a process where we take back our country. Our country is going to hell. We have to start a process, Bill, where we take back our country," Trump said.

But Trump is not going to amend the Constitution. He's just going to get it declared illegal.

"It’s a long process, and I think it would take too long. I’d much rather find out whether or not anchor babies are citizens because a lot of people don’t think they are," he said. "We’re going to test it out. That’s going to happen, Bill."

Here is what the 14th Amendment, Section 1, says. "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Trump wants to get rid of that? And what replaces it? And what of your guarantee of citizenship?

Steve Benen at MSNBC/Rachel Maddow has a good short take on this.

As ridiculous as this may seem, don’t just roll your eyes at this and move on. Trump’s wrong, but his argument is poised to become a lot more common.

What Trump actually has in mind is a court fight in which he and his lawyers challenge the legality of constitutional language.

Trump and the other Clowns are walking on the knife edge of the law of unintended consequences. How do you know you are a citizen? If not by reason of birth in this country, then by reason of birth to your parents who presumably are/were citizens. How do you know they are/were citizens? And how about their parents? And their parents? The whole point of the 14th Amendment is to avoid this nastiness.