Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Another reason why Boehner leaving Congress is no reason to be happy

Suppress your urge to do a happy dance. The state of the House is about to become worse. To understand, just consider who is migrating up the hierarchy. The latest is an opening for majority leader. In two words: Steve. Scalise.

See the Talking Points Memo piece by Josh Marshall for background and reasons why Scalise is not one of the good guys.

"Are bigotry and lies exactly what the Republican electorate wants?"

In a word ... yes! It takes Paul Waldman of the Washington Post/Plum Line a lot of words to get there but there he gets.

However this [Republican] primary race turns out, at the moment more than half the Republican electorate is supporting either 1) a spectacularly xenophobic candidate who wants to round up 11 million people and build a wall around America; 2) a candidate who thinks that we ought to have religious tests for high office; or 3) a candidate who evinces few qualms about lying repeatedly even after her lies have been carefully documented. This is a party with a lot to be proud of.

As a case in point I offer Carly Fiorina (via Jim Hightower at Common Dreams).

We've got a new darling in the GOP presidential race: Carly Fiorina!

Being the darling du jour, however, can be dicey – just ask Rick Perry and Scott Walker, two former darlings who're now out of the race, having turned into ugly ducklings by saying stupid things. But Fiorina is smart, sharp witted, and successful. We know this because she and her PR agents constantly tell us so. Be careful about believing anything she says, though, for Darling Fiorina is not only a relentless self-promoter, but also a remorseless liar.

...

So, did Fiorina make up this lie [about Planned Parenthood] herself, or did her PR team concoct it as a bit of show-biz drama to burnish her right-wing credentials and advance her political ambition? Or, maybe she's just spreading a malicious lie she was told by some haters of Planned Parenthood. Either way, there's nothing darling about it… much less presidential.

But the Republican electorate is eating this s*#t up the minute it comes out.

Hmmm. Interesting visual that.

Daily Trumpeter: More on Trump's 2-part strategy

Matthew Yglesias (vox.com) and Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) are sharp guys and I rarely find myself in disagreement with them. But our views of Donald Trump's new tax plan puts me somewhat at odds with them.

Recall that I proposed that Trump had a 2-part strategy. On my account, he directs his public bluster and B. S. at the GOP rank and file red-meat crowd. But he uses his policy statements to establish his creds with the Republican establishment. Yglesias and Sargent see only a part of this.

From the Vox.com article on Trump's tax plan by Yglesias.

The clearest indication that Trump utterly failed to deliver the breath of fresh air the world was waiting for comes from the Club for Growth's own Stephen Moore, who told journalist Jim Tankersley that he was pleased as punch with Trump's ideas.

"Who would have known Donald Trump was a supply sider?" Steve Moore tells me. "It’s a solid plan. It’s very pro-growth. It's Reaganesque."
— Jim Tankersley (@jimtankersley) September 28, 2015

Actually its a cobbled-together copy-cat plan likely to create a huge deficit, but read on.

It's not entirely clear why Trump took this particular turn. Even the GOP rank and file doesn't share the donor class's obsession with cutting taxes on the rich, and Trump is a very rich man who isn't relying on donors to fuel his campaign.

See? The establishment types love it.

From the Plum Line article by Sargent.

Not long ago, Donald Trump claimed that his rivals would allow "Wall Street" and the "hedge fund guys" to continue to "rip off the people by paying no or very little in taxes." The implication was that Trump would raise the tax burden on top earners, which he seemed to underscore at the most recent GOP debate, when he ridiculed an opponent’s suggestion that raising taxes on the wealthy would constitute "socialism," adding: "I know people that are making a tremendous amount of money and paying virtually no tax, and I think it’s unfair."

Today, Trump finally rolled out his tax plan. According to a leading tax expert I spoke to today, it would probably result in a tax cut, possibly a very large one, for many of the highest earners.

You’re probably very surprised by this.

Not really. Sargent's title tells us that Trump played us for suckers. But, it's part of his 2-part strategy. He tells one story to the masses and another to the entrenched leaders.

Now, I am an experimental psychologist by training so I am a data guy. If any of you reading this can provide observations grounded in fact that would prove me wrong, go for it. Just let me know.

P. S.
Here are the links to my previous posts on the 2-part strategy, here and here.

New study: AZ ranks 3rd from the bottom on educational indicators

No surprise there. Jim Nintzel at Tucson Weekly/The Range reports on a new survey by WalletHub. The topic is educational ranking by state. Here are the data.

  • 41st: Average Starting Salary for Teachers
  • 49th: Median Annual Salary for Teachers
  • 48th: WalletHub "School Systems" Ranking
  • 42nd: Unemployment Rate
  • 45th: 10-Year Change in Teacher Salaries
  • 49th: Pupil-to-Teacher Ratio
  • 51st: Public School Spending per Student

Next thing is that the GOPlins will probably brag about AZ being 3rd. They don't deal well with facts.

New GOP rallying cry: Defund the Truth!

EJ Montini at The Republic/azcentral.com says what most of us already know: the main victim in the Planned Parenthood defunding ruckus is the truth.

The only thing that has been defunded in the Planned Parenthood debate is the truth.

Should we start with the money, the wild, false claims or the unnecessary government actions?

My favorite is the false claim about PP funding being wasteful. GOPlins haul that one out when they can't think of anything else. Read EJ's column for more.

... those pushing to defund Planned Parenthood speak of the funding the organization receives as a waste of money.

They might want to check first with the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan research operation that provides lawmakers with unbiased information.

It issued a report this month saying that defunding the organization would end up costing taxpayers $130 million over the next 10 years while at the same time causing as many as 630,000 Planned Parenthood patients to lose access to birth control, STD screening, and other reproductive services.

I understand any person’s honest opposition to abortion.

But how do you skew or completely distort the facts, create knowingly unnecessary regulations and fudge the budgetary math and still claim the moral high ground?

Scriber's answer: the same way the right-to-lifers shoot doctors and vandalize clinics and intimidate clients.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Daily Trumpeter update: Tax cuts could cost US trillions

Trump has a plan to cut taxes but offers little in the way of explaining how he will pay for them. The LA Times has the story (reprinted in the Daily Star).

"He’s very specific about the nature of the tax cuts, but very vague about the nature of the tax increases," said Howard Gleckman, senior fellow at the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. "Politicians of both parties have been playing that game forever, and he’s just doing it too."

It’s clear the cuts would benefit the wealthiest Americans more than anyone else, Gleckman said. Trump’s plan would eliminate the federal inheritance tax, a cut that could produce a windfall for his own children. The tax applies to estates of $5 million or more for individuals, and $10 million or more for couples.

When it comes to revenue cuts, there is no free lunch despite what Trump claims.

Kyle Pomerleau, an economist at the nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington, said it was highly unlikely that the overall plan would cost the government nothing, as Trump asserted.

"Even accounting for additional economic growth from the plan," he said, "it still wouldn’t be able to claw back the revenue losses."

And along the way rich bankers will benefit the most from Trump's tax plan.

For months, Trump hinted that he would break with his party and crack down on tax breaks for Wall Street. His plan does include elimination of the so-called carried interest break that has enabled hedge fund titans and private equity investors like Mitt Romney to pay lower tax rates than the middle class.

But it’s not clear that Trump’s plan would actually raise taxes on the group. Most of their investment income is now taxed at the top 23.8% rate for capital gains. Under Trump’s plan, it would be taxed as ordinary income, at the new top rate of 25%. Whatever investors earned in ordinary income, currently taxed at 39.6%, would be taxed at a maximum of 25%.

Because much of the other earnings of Wall Street’s richest bankers is already taxed as ordinary income, the net result could be a substantial drop in their overall income taxes.

Action alert: Today is Planned Parenthood's "pink-out" day

Here are events you can attend in Tucson to show your support for Planned Parenthood.

h/t Pamela Powers Hannley at Blog for Arizona

Blackmailer's lives matter ...

... to the Republican party. We have met the enemy and they is them.

Paul Krugman has a column on how truly nuts the GOPlins have become. Here are some snippets.

John Boehner was a terrible, very bad, no good speaker of the House. Under his leadership, Republicans pursued an unprecedented strategy of scorched-earth obstructionism, which did immense damage to the economy and undermined America’s credibility around the world.

Still, things could have been worse. And under his successor they almost surely will be worse. Bad as Mr. Boehner was, he was just a symptom of the underlying malady, the madness that has consumed his party.

...

... Republican leaders who have encouraged the base to believe all kinds of untrue things are in no position to start preaching political rationality.

Mr. Boehner is quitting because he found himself caught between the limits of the politically possible and a base that lives in its own reality. But don’t cry for (or with) Mr. Boehner; cry for America, which must find a way to live with a G.O.P. gone mad.

It's what's in the "..." that you should click through to read.

Daily Trumpeter: Trump's economic embrace of Bush and Rubio - now wants to cut taxes for the wealthy

Trump has finally shed the last vestiges of the populism, the outsider-ism that has made him so popular with rank-and-file Republicans. He is now squarely mainstream by a tax policy mainly benefitting the wealthy.

CNN reports.

Donald Trump is vowing to drastically cut income taxes for millions of Americans across the wealth spectrum while casting aside loopholes popular on Wall Street.

"It will provide major tax relief for middle income and for most other Americans. There will be a major tax reduction," Trump said Monday at a press conference at Trump Tower in New York as he unveiled his plan to revamp the tax code. "It'll simplify the tax code, it'll grow the American economy at a level that it hasn't seen for decades."

One of the biggest beneficiaries appears to be families that draw the smallest paychecks. Individuals that make less than $25,000 (and $50,000 for married couples) would pay no income taxes under Trump's plan.

But many of those families already pay no federal taxes. Roughly 45% of American households will not owe any federal income taxes this year under the existing tax code, according to Tax Policy Center estimates. Trump said his plan will ensure a slightly larger share -- more than 50% of households -- pay no federal income tax.

So there is little in Trump's plan for those families struggling to get by. It's a different story for those families who are relatively well off.

Meanwhile, the proposal would also be a boon for the wealthiest Americans like Trump -- the top bracket includes individuals making $150,001 and more and couples making $300,001 and more -- who would pay an income tax rate of 25%. That's a dramatic cut from the current top rate of close to 40%.

The old Trump sucked in votes by complaining about the low taxes paid by the wealthy. But the new Trump is blaring a different story.

The tax cuts for top earners could open Trump up to charges of hypocrisy. The real estate magnate has surged to the top of the polls by touting a populist tone, lamenting that wealthy people like himself should pay more.

Asked at Monday's press conference how his proposal would affect his own tax rate, Trump dodged the question, saying: "We're reducing taxes, but believe me, there will be people in the very upper echelon that won't be thrilled with this."

He also declined to say how much taxes he currently pays, only saying, "I fight like hell to pay as little as possible."

Economists don't think much of the plan.

Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, said Trump's claim that his plan would be revenue neutral was "hard to swallow."

Trump's GOP rivals, including Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have clear objectives for their tax plan. But Trump's is harder to parse, said Republican economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

As for Trump, "I don't know what he wants," Holtz-Eakin said. "It looks like bits and pieces of other people's plans strung together."

A while back I predicted something like this would happen. I saw a strategy emerging in which Trump's bombast appealed to the Radical right-wingers while his policy statements would evolve into mainstream Republican positions.

His public remarks have not cooled off at all, so Trump still comes off as a renegade outsider, a truer conservative than those Republican candidates holding (or having held) public offices. But his policy releases so far suggest that he's endorsing positions held by most Republicans - little gun control and securing our border to name two. As a result, he attracts the hard-core right-wing-nuts but also attracts (or at least does not repel) the establishment base. (Now his effect on the GOP's establishment leaders is another story.) Stay tuned for policy number 3 as a test case.

Well, number 3 has arrived in the form of the tax policy on Trump's web site that favors the wealthy, a long-standing Republican tradition also advocated by other Republican candidates.

Prediction confirmed.

Laurie Roberts vs. The Scriber: Is the AZ Corporation Commission wholly owned or just partially owned by Arizona Public Service.

Roberts thinks the entire commission is bought out. Scriber thinks only 3/5 are bought out. The fourth is a paid lobbyist for another industry regulated by the ACC, and the fifth is trying to dodge his duty. If you do not know the cast of characters implied here, you will not notice the increase in your electric bills.

Roberts at The Republic/azcentral.com has much to say about the Arizona Corporation Commission being bought out by Arizona Public Service, a utility the commission is supposed to regulate. Here are lots of snippets from her report.

The reader had a request: "Would you stop with all the stories about APS and dark money already. I mean, who cares?"

The first answer is easy. Nope, I won’t stop – not until we know whether the Arizona Corporation Commission really is a wholly owned subsidiary of Arizona Public Service.

Whether APS secretly spent $3.2 million last year on a covert campaign to pack the five-member commission with candidates who reside in the utility’s vast and extremely deep pockets.

As to who cares? You do. Or you should. Especially if you’re a captive customer of the state’s largest and most powerful utility.

That is, unless you really do relish the prospect of higher utility bills.

"Ultimately, it’s about money and how much they (read: you) pay," former long-time Commissioner Renz Jennings told me.

Ultimately, it’s about who should decide how much you pay for electricity: an independent commission or APS.

If you prefer that an independent body make the call, as has happened since statehood, then it’s time to start paying attention.

Two of the commissioners were elevated to ("elected to") the commission with the aid of oodles of dark money.

Here’s the problem for [commissioners] Forese and Little – and for the commission.

Either the pair of them were bought and paid for by APS and we can’t trust this commission to fairly set our utility rates. Or a sizable piece of the public believes they were bought and paid for by APS and we don’t trust this commission to fairly set our utility rates.

Then again, maybe unicorns really do exist and APS had no secret scheme to buy itself a pair of regulators.

If so, there’s a way to prove that.

It's time to crack the APS books.

Does Wall Street own McSally?

Matt Heinz, candidate for the US House of Representatives CD2 seat, wrote an op-ed in the Sierra Vista Herald criticizing Rep. Martha McSally (R-CD2) for errors in her campaign finance reporting and her voting for Wall Street interests. Here is some of what he had to say.

As explained in the Sierra Vista Herald’s editorial (Keeping the Records Straight, 8/28/15), Congresswoman Martha McSally has raised millions of dollars but refuses to make information about her donors available as required by law. She’s received a whopping 14 letters from the Federal Elections Commission seeking basic information like the occupations and employers of her donors, but she’s still not talking.

McSally’s high-handed disdain for the rules is so out of whack that no one else in Arizona’s Congressional delegation even comes close to having those types of violations. And she has added insult to injury by issuing her defense in what is clearly a political campaign matter through her taxpayer-funded Congressional staff.

The Wall Street Journal reports that even though she has been a member of Congress for just eight months, the Congresswoman has raked in more money from the financial services industry than all but two House members in competitive districts. One of the biggest sectors of the financial industry is made up of predatory lenders, the outfits that target vulnerable, low-income families with high interest loans—the same moneylenders that Arizonans overwhelmingly voted to kick out of the state in 2010.

Within three months of being sworn into office, Martha McSally voted to allow predatory lenders to target military families (in an amendment to HR 1735). Across the nation, you can see them clustered near the entrances to military bases like Fort Huachuca and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. And Martha McSally wants them to stay.

MCSally should come clean and do the disclosures requested by the FEC. She cannot cleanse her voting record but perhaps she might have a change of heart about payday lenders. And the unicorns are still out and about this morning.

GV News hosts public forum on Pima bonds

Quoting from the GV News:

The Green Valley News and Sahuarita Sun will host a public forum on the Pima County bond package at 2 p.m. Oct. 7, at Canoa Hills Social Center, 3660 S. Camino Del Sol.

Voters will be asked to decide on seven ballot propositions covering 99 bond projects at a total cost of $815.7 million. The one-hour forum will include brief presentations and questions from editor Dan Shearer, who will moderate, and from the audience.

Consider it a challenge to see if the Tea Potty can behave themselves. Will the Greedy Old Patriarchs be able to explain why they object to $1.46 per month? Suppose they will vote only for the road repair part - about 25% of the total package. That leaves them to complain about $1.00 per month.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Taking America Back ... in time

America is increasingly looking like ... itself. Not in 2015. But in 1970. Even 1934. In 1915. 1865. 1744.

This essay originally published a couple of years ago, complete with supporting data, is from the Daily Kos Recommended email list. The essay is a good read for its background on these trends.

  • Economic inequality at an all-time high
  • The demise of labor unions
  • Mass incarceration and the modern version of convict leasing (aka slavery)
  • Imprisonment of mentally ill
  • Return of monopolies
  • Welcoming of preventable diseases previously eradicated
  • Gilded age politics
  • Endless war - about modern bananas (oil)

In one way or another, all this is driven by corporate profit, conservative politics, or the religious right. The Pope should shed tears. Even he cannot put a dent in America's decline.

We really were headed back in time on a journey of 40 years. Now that we've arrived think of Donald Trump and the GOP as representatives of the status quo. See the related post that immediately follows.

Why Boehner's leaving is bad for America: It's a symptom of a movement populated by extremists and authoritarians

Heather Cox Richardson is a historian at Boston College. She's written an essay in Salon.com on the history of the conservative movement. The title: "It is time to get very afraid: Extremists, authoritarians now run the GOP — and no one can stop them."

Here is where her essay ends -- on our mad march to an Orwellian state. I include closing snippets as a teaser. The best parts of the essay is the history of how this came to be.

By the time of the George W. Bush administration, Movement Conservatives controlled the Republican Party, and they abandoned reality in favor of their simple story line. A member of the Bush administration famously noted to journalist Ron Suskind that "the reality-based" view of the world was obsolete. "That’s not the way the world really works anymore," this senior adviser to the president told Suskind. "When we act, we create our own reality."

That is exactly what today’s Movement Conservatives are doing. After the last Republican debate, astonished observers noted that many of the candidates’ assertions were flat-out lies. The New York Times editorial board mused: "It felt at times as if the speakers were no longer living in a fact-based world." But the lies are not random. They tell followers that America has fallen apart because enemies— minorities, women and liberals– have poisoned the government. Only a Movement Conservative leader can purge the nation of that poison and return America to its former greatness. Donald Trump, who currently commands a significant lead, is the salesman who puts it most clearly. He tells his followers that "the world is a mess." He promises to work outside the old order and replace it with something new and wonderful. He tells them a story in which Christianity is under siege, President Obama is a foreigner, and that immigrants—who actually commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans– are criminals. He refused to contradict a follower who announced that Muslims are a problem that we must "get rid of." And he promises to "Make America Great Again."

But Trump is not an outlier. Jeb! says that black people vote for Democrats to get "free stuff." Mike Huckabee insists that the United States is criminalizing Christianity. Bobby Jindal promises to "fire" Congress. Ted Cruz hints that President Obama is a Muslim and warns that no Muslim should be president. All of the candidates demonize undocumented immigrants.

And Carly Fiorina makes the outrageous claim, on national television, that political opponents murder babies to harvest and sell their brains. Think about that.

The fantasy world of Movement Conservatives is no longer fringe talk. The leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination embrace it. They are playing to a chorus of true believers, and they are preaching what that choir wants to hear. They are following the same pattern Eric Hoffer identified as the path to authoritarianism. Last week, 43 percent of Republicans polled said they could imagine a scenario in which they would back a military coup. This week, Movement Conservatives in Congress knocked off a conservative speaker because he refused to sacrifice the American government to their demands.

We should be very frightened indeed. If we are not careful, John Boehner’s will not be the only head on the block.

Don't mistake Richardson for another pundit. The real meat of her essay is the history leading up to this "conservative" unreal reality. Consider it required reading.

Heather Cox Richardson is the author of "To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party," amongst several other books, and a professor of history at Boston College.

Retiring Speaker of the House can do the country some good

Judging from the number of stories about John Boehner's resignation from congress you might think that every journalist went to some school for pundits. (Disclosure: I did not.)

Here is an interesting take (from Brian Beutler at the New Republic) on what Boehner might do in the way of making his successor's life easier. Snippets follow.

For all his flaws, House Speaker John Boehner, who announced on Friday that he will resign from Congress at the end of October, was badly served by a lot of people.

Boehner’s decision is due not to any ostensible scandal or illness but to cruel political mathematics: His conference has become so dysfunctional that when a Republican speaker resigns, the House becomes less, not more, chaotic and reckless. The circumstances that prefigured his resignation are thus a fitting metaphor for his entire speakership and for the state of the Republican Party as a whole. It would be to Boehner’s credit to do everything in his power in the next month to protect his successor from the same fate.

So what is "everything in his power"?

Boehner probably can’t end the vicious cycle that hobbled his speakership. But he could plausibly clear the deck for his successor for long enough that the big issues Republicans want to fight over can play out in the election, rather than in the throes of governance. He could place legislation on the floor that funds the government for a year, extends the debt limit through 2016, and replenishes the highway trust fund, and allow Democrats to supply most of the votes required to restore calm. If Boehner were determined to make the next speakership less volatile than his own, and to end his own speakership on a note of responsible stewardship, he almost certainly could. What remains to be seen is whether he has one last fight left in him.

Now those would be great acts of statesmanship. Practically, he could not be in any more trouble with the GOPlins in the House, so what has he to lose?

David Fitzsimmons asks "What if men could get pregnant?"

In case you missed it. Fitz answers the question.

This is Brian Cronkite of CNN and I’m standing outside the Capitol, where the 2024 Congress just voted to defund Planned Parenthood for the 247th time. Millions of men are here today, marching in a massive protest against this attempt.

Since men gained the ability to become pregnant, the dynamics of the debate have shifted dramatically. In spite of extensive research into what was "in the water" in 2021, the cause of men developing uteruses remains a mystery.

Since men have become pregnant, there have been ballot initiatives to make abortions free, to make morning-after pills available like Skittles and to force pharmaceutical firms to develop bacon-flavored birth-control pills.

The inventor of man-pons is richer than Bill Gates, breastfeeding in public is encouraged, applauded and celebrated, and Midol is available in sporting-goods stores. At a pro-choice rally a man who suggested that "maybe men should try keeping it in their pants" was nearly beaten to death by a horde of pregnant men armed with diaper bags.

Let’s talk to one of the protesters opposed to today’s congressional action. ...

See Fitz's column for the interview.

Cartoons to start the week: the Pope, GOP candidates, Boehner, and Yogi Berra

Courtesy of AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Of Course Not: Update on McSally's opposition to a shutdown: She also votes against Planned Parenthood.

Subtitle: Mea culpa.

A few days ago I reported on US Rep. Martha McSally (R, CD2) and her signing onto a letter opposing a government shutdown. I should have dug deeper before awarding her any points. She earlier voted against Planned Parenthood. I should have known. Jim Nintzel at Tucson Weekly/The Range has that story.

After voting last week to cut off all federal funding for Planned Parenthood for one year, Congresswoman Martha McSally was one of 11 freshmen who signed onto a letter opposing a government shutdown over the issue.

But McSally’s office has declined to say whether she still supports shutting off funding for Planned Parenthood in the future. Several GOP presidential candidates as well as Republican lawmakers have vowed to cut off the federal funds Planned Parenthood now receives to provide treatment for STDs, cancer screenings and contraception, among other healthcare services. Federal law prohibits Planned Parenthood from using tax dollars for abortion services.

So McSally has reverted to form. In the end, we don't really know where she stands on women's reproductive health care. She signs onto a letter that is going nowhere (42 rabid GOPlins vs. 11 freshman Reps). She votes to defund Planned Parenthood (sucking up to the GOPlins). And then she covers that vote with a refusal to say what her position really is.

Nintzel's main story, however, concerns McSally's attempt to move Planned Parenthood funding to other agencies.

McSally spokesman Patrick Ptak told the Weekly earlier this week that McSally had pushed to include a provision in the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2105 to move the funding that now goes to Planned Parenthood to other community health centers, such as El Rio Community Health Center.

But at least one of those centers is not hot about the idea.

But Tara Plese, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Alliance of Community Health Centers, says the organization—which represents community health centers across the state, including El Rio—doesn’t see that plan as viable.

"While we really appreciate the support we’re getting from both sides of the aisle, we just want to make it clear that we don’t want to take funding from any other healthcare organization," Plese said. "We don’t think it’s the right approach to do that."

These centers rely on Planned Parenthood's services.

"Quite honestly, I think the assertion that health centers are going to pick up the slack because we’re going to get a little bit more funding is probably not accurate," Plese said. "Because the way that the health system works, we need our partner organizations working in tandem to be able to adequately deliver these services and one of those organizations is Planned Parenthood. We really rely on them to pick up a lot of the slack for those areas that we cannot cover."

Plese said part of the problem is that El Rio doesn’t have enough obstetricians and gynecologists to handle the additional patient load. On top of that, many people choose to use Planned Parenthood to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases because the organization offers anonymity and some of those who are getting tested for STDs don’t want their primary-care doctors or insurance companies to know they may have caught an STD.

"They want the anonymity," Plese said. "It’s a privacy issue and they don’t want that to show up on their explanation of benefits."

Plese said that Planned Parenthood clinics "exist for a reason."

"They are filling a gap in services that our community health centers and other primary care providers are not able to fill," Plese said.

You can read the response from McSally's press agent hack in Nintzel's report. The bottom line is this.

Ptak did not say whether McSally, who has said she opposes allowing women to have abortions except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at stake, supported cutting off all funding for Planned Parenthood in the future.

That's why this is a good candidate for my "Of Course Not" series.

AZ business groups agree to rob future children to fund public schools

The AZ Chamber of Commerce, surprise surprise, is backing Guv Doozey's plan to rob from future education to fund present educational needs. The are on board with that and against using the current surplus as was proposed by Sup. Diane Douglas. The Phoenix Business Journal has that story.

Top business groups aren’t getting behind Douglas’ call for a special session of the Arizona Legislature to put surplus cash in the classrooms.

Some of them prefer Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposed ballot measure to put more State Trust Land money toward K-12 schools. Ducey’s plan ups state land sale and lease revenue to schools by $1.8 billion over five years. The plan scales back those increase years after.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry backs Ducey’s plan. Chamber President and CEO Glenn Hamer is a top Ducey ally.

"The chamber supports Gov. Ducey’s plan to reform the State Land Trust to increase funding to our K-12 schools, and we’re encouraged by the discussion it’s sparked at the Capitol," state chamber spokesman Garrick Taylor said. "We hope that the superintendent plays a constructive role in the passage of a plan that has been recognized by Forbes as ‘a major step in the right direction.’"

That plan raids the State Land Trust to pay now while incurring a cost in the future, a move opposed by State Treasurer Jeff DeWit.

Some business groups also want to wait to see what happens with a lawsuit brought by K-12 school contending they’ve been shorted inflation payments by the Legislature. That lawsuit could cost $331 million or as much as $1.3 billion if courts side with school contentions.

Settlement talks have broken down over the lawsuit and State Senate President Andy Biggs and House Speaker Dave Gowan have come up with some of their own plans to boost K-12 spending.

Some of that entails raiding money from the voter-approved First Things First preschool funding program.

So Biggs and Gowan plan on robbing the cradle to cover the constitutionally mandated funding of public education. In the process they want to repeal the voter initiatives on inflationary funding and First Things First. In essence they will ask voters to screw AZ kids.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Arizona GOP legislators find way to fund public schools

Gotcha! The headline was merely a way to sneak this story into my "Of Course Not" series.

Basically what Andy Biggs plans to do is ask voters to get the GOP legislators off the hook. If voters repeal the 2000 law that indexes education funding to inflation, then these guys won't ever have to properly fund public education. moreover, for the plan to succeed, the voters would have to trash another voter initiative that provides funds for early childhood development. Moreover moreover, the plan rests on raiding the state land trust this decreasing available funds for the future.

So it boils down to three nefarious actions. (1) Get voters to go back on their own law. (2) Steal from pre-school children. (3) Steal from future children.

My newspaper is laying on the driveway. It's dark outside. I could run into snakes. Scorpions. Javelinas. Republican legislators. Yuck!

Please let me settle for the story in the on-line edition of the Daily Star.

Republican legislative leaders are crafting a plan to ask voters to let them reduce the amount of inflation help schools could get each year.

Senate President Andy Biggs said the proposal would set annual increases in state aid at 1.6 percent. By comparison, a 2000 voter-approved plan requires the increase to match actual inflation, up to 2 percent.

Biggs said voters should consider this a good deal, as current inflation is running about 1.1 percent. He conceded the lower figure could shortchange schools in years of rapid inflation.

But there’s actually less to the plan than meets the eye.

The plan is based on adding inflation not to the $330 million a trial judge already has ruled the state owes schools but on the $74 million that Biggs and House Speaker David Gowan contend is the proper number. It effectively would wipe out that court ruling.

It also would be part of a larger financial package, one that includes an immediate $100 million addition in state aid plus tapping land trust proceeds and raiding a voter-approved fund for early childhood development.

What all that means is that 1.6 percent inflation factor would apply to a much lower number than the court says the state already owes.

Chuck Essigs, who lobbies for the Arizona Association of School Business officials said there’s an even bigger problem.

He said the plan as he understands it actually would allow future Legislatures to legally withhold that 1.6 percent and not be subject to lawsuit. And that, said Essigs, is a nonstarter.

Biggs and the other GOPlins want the voters to go back on two things.

At the heart of the fight is the 2000 ballot measure that hiked the state’s 5 percent sales tax by six-tenths of a cent, with the funding all earmarked for education. The same measure also mandates annual inflation adjustments in basic state aid, up to 2 percent.

Essigs said another hole in the overall plan, at least from the perspective of schools, is that some of the additional dollars Biggs and Gowan are promising would come from raiding the First Things First program. Approved by voters in 2006, that program uses the proceeds from an 80-cent-a-pack tax on cigarettes to provide grants for early childhood development.

And these guys want us to trust them?

But [Essigs] said any promise would be legally unenforceable because it would not have the constitutional protection of having been approved by voters. And that, Essigs said, would let legislators decide to ignore it when they want — or simply decide that because they had cut taxes for business they "simply don’t have the money."

Will this legislature ever fund public education as it should, and as the AZ constitution mandates?

Of. Course. Not.

Who will succeed Boehner for "the worst job in Washington"?

Evidently the guy who is, at least on paper, the least qualified for the job of Speaker of the House: Kevin McCarthy.

McCarthy's legislative resume' is thinner than a hair on a mosquito's nose. Here's the story from Steve Benen at the Rachel Maddow Show.

There are all kinds of questions surrounding this story, but near the top of the list is a pretty straightforward inquiry: who in their right mind would actually volunteer for the job Boehner is giving up?

Not only is it practically impossible to lead the current crop of House Republicans, but there’s also the inconvenient fact that recent GOP Speakers tend to meet unwelcome fates: Newt Gingrich resigned in disgrace; Bob Livingstone resigned in disgrace; Dennis Hastert is under criminal indictment; and John Boehner is quitting mid-term.

Already today, we know that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has withdrawn from consideration. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who tried to oust Boehner, said he’s not running, either. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was going to be Speaker, but his Republican constituents abandoned him in a primary last year.

And that apparently leaves his successor, current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) ...

Remember, when McCarthy was elevated to the #2 slot in the House Republican leadership, he’d only been in Congress for seven years – making him easily the least experienced Majority Leader in American history. By one count, during his brief tenure, McCarthy sponsored only three bills, and only two of them actually passed.

One of them renamed a post office.

The other renamed a flight research center.

Now he’s going to be Speaker of the House and second in the line of presidential succession?

The thing is that anybody who succeeds Boehner will be facing the same situation: a divided House driven by right-wingers incapable of passing meaningful legislation relevant to the nation's needs. Here's a story on that from the NY Times. Here are snippets.

... Mr. Boehner’s years in Washington and his resistance to putting government through upheaval over unwinnable policy fights were serious sins to conservatives inside and outside the House who have a strong distaste for government and were eager to push their views to the limit. Those same antigovernment conservative influences have had a notable impact on the Republican presidential primary, moving outsiders like Donald J. Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina to the fore while castigating the Republican establishment in Washington as part of the problem.

The person who replaces Mr. Boehner will face the same situation — a fact that was not lost Friday on House Republicans who seemed to have a bit of a "Now what do we do?" outlook as they absorbed the loss of Mr. Boehner.

"Whoever is in the speaker’s chair has the same mathematics," said Representative Trent Franks, Republican of Arizona.

Whoever takes over will not find the job any easier. In fact, it could be tougher with emboldened conservatives applying tremendous pressure to confront Democrats and the White House more than Mr. Boehner was willing or able to do. And Mr. Boehner, 65, had the stature, relationships and internal support to resist the rebellion until this point; the incoming speaker will to some degree owe members of the right flank for a job that would not be open were it not for them.

Representative Steve Stivers, Republican of Ohio, said, "This gives us some running room to get things done."

But Mr. Boehner’s critics will aggressively resist such a strategy. They see his retirement as a capitulation and a recognition that conservative unrest against the establishment — the nexus of K Street and Capitol Hill that Mr. Boehner represented — is taking hold and that the old guard is on the run.

So the divisions in the House are likely to be at least as deep with a new speaker.

But it could be worse. A lot worse. Really. Think of a GOP ticket with Trump and Carson for P and VP.

APS pulls rate request, Corporation Commission still under cloud of suspicion

The Daily Star reports.

Arizona’s largest electricity utility offered Friday to withdraw a proposed fee increase for solar customers, saying its request had been "turned into political theater" by opponents.

Arizona Public Service Co. said it instead wants regulators to hold a hearing to determine the actual costs of providing power and let that be used to help decide how much of a rate increase it imposes on customers.

The utility says non-solar customers are being increasingly forced to pay more than their share to support the power grid because of solar customers who are growing in number each year. APS wanted the monthly solar fee boosted from the $5 a month approved in 2013 to $21 per month, which critics said would harm the solar industry by reducing the incentive for installing rooftop panels.

The proposals have set off a political fight on the Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates the utility. The utility has declined to either confirm or deny that it spent as much as $3.2 million in last year’s Corporation Commission election to back its favored candidates, who easily won.

By pulling back on the rate increase, APS will let the commission decide what a reasonable rate increase is next year after analyzing all the necessary costs associated with solar and other innovations.

The rest of the article rehashes the conflict of interest and dark money difficulties faced by Arizona Corporation Commission members. It does not matter that APS pulled its request. The commissioners are tainted and any decision favoring APS will be forever suspect. At least four of the commissioners need to get the boot and the other one, Bob Burns, needs to force APS to open its books and reveal its political spending in the 2014 campaign.

Why Walky World went bankrupt and closed

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker flamed out and quit the GOP presidential primary race. He said he had been "called" to leadership. Only in Walky World would anyone believe that.

The bottom line is that Walky was a crappy candidate, one among a whole field of crappy candidates, a group of clowns each of whom is very much unprepared to be president.

If you want more perspective, here's an editorial piece from the Bloomberg View via the Daily Star.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Quote of the day: Pope Francis addressing Congress

Francis' organizing theme was four Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. Here's the quote (via AZBlueMeanie's analysis of the Pope's address at B4AZ).

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to "dream" of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

The question of the day is whether America now can be so considered.

Oh, the irony!

Here are two headlines from the Daily Star. One is on the front page, the other on the front page of the sports section. The contrast speaks volumes about our priorities.

UA cuts 320 jobs to save $21 million

Regents approve extensions, retention plans for Miller, Byrne

Shutdown update: McConnell's maneuvering

Here's a short update from Politico.com.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to set up a vote on a clean spending bill that would avert a government shutdown on Oct. 1, although House Speaker John Boehner still has not said whether his chamber will take up the Senate legislation.

McConnell made the move after a measure that would have defunded Planned Parenthood failed to win even a majority of Senate votes on Thursday afternoon.

The raging right-wing Republican radicals in the house, though, are likely to block McConnell's attempt to avoid a shutdown.

Paul Waldman at the Washington Post Plum Line has additional analysis and comments.

With the big news out of Congress today the warm welcome received by Pope Francis, one might forget that our nation’s august legislature is headed for yet another government shutdown, this time over Republican demands that the government cut off all funding for Planned Parenthood, most of which comes in the form of Medicaid reimbursements for women’s health care.

This comes at a particularly inopportune time for Republicans. Just when it was starting to look like their chaotic presidential primary might be heading to a more sane place, the shutdown controversy threatens to drag it backwards, boosting the candidates the party fears most.

... if there will be any beneficiaries of a shutdown (or an intra-GOP) battle over whether to pursue a shutdown) in the presidential race, they’re likely to be Trump, perhaps Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, and Ted Cruz, whose entire political persona is built on his contempt for the Republican congressional leadership. ...

This controversy will end in one of two ways: either Congress will pass a "clean" continuing resolution to fund the government (including Planned Parenthood) before a shutdown occurs, or there will be a shutdown for some period of time, which will end when Congress passes a clean CR. Republicans will not get the substantive thing they want, just as they always fail to get the substantive thing they want when they threaten shutdowns. They didn’t repeal the Affordable Care Act when they shut down the government in 2013, and they won’t defund Planned Parenthood this time.

Whenever it does end, Ted Cruz will cry "Betrayal!", Donald Trump will say, "these bozos can’t get anything done," and lots of Republican voters will nod their heads in agreement. And the day when something resembling order comes to the presidential primary contest will have been pushed back again — all while the general electorate is reminded of what a reasonable and trustworthy governing party the GOP is.

80% chance of GOP causing a costly government shutdown

That's the likelihood of the GOP members of the House causing a shutdown over the attempt to defund Planned Parenthood (PP) according to Steve Benen at the Rachel Maddow Show. Never mind that PP will not be defunded. They already have the grants and their federal funding is not for abortions anyway. Never mind that the last time they pulled this shutdown stunt it cost billions and many lost jobs. The fact is that a group of hardline, right-wing Republican congressmen are out to have a fight with Senate Democrats and the President. And time is running out.

[As I wrote yesterday:] Eleven House Republican freshmen wrote a letter to their colleagues yesterday, urging them not to shut down the government next week. "[W]e were elected by our constituent’s to be principled, pragmatic leaders," their letter said.

AZ CD2 Rep. Martha McSally was one of those GOP freshmen signing that letter. But ...

Practically speaking, however, a letter from 11 freshmen doesn’t amount to much, especially against a 42-member House Freedom Caucus, which is itching for a fight.

So, what happens now? Current funding expires on Wednesday, which is now just six days away. With this deadline looming, one might assume that lawmakers are scrambling, running from office to office, holding frantic meetings looking for a solution to resolve this mess. But conditions on the Hill aren’t nearly that frantic. GOP leaders have an outline of a plan, though no one seems to have any idea whether the plan will work.

Why is there doubt about the plan? Among other things, true to form Sen. Ted Cruz is likely to gum up any plan to get a clean continuing resolution passed. For more on the plan and its difficulties, see Benen's report.

The NY Times editorial board sums it up pretty well.

Abortions are a small part of Planned Parenthood’s services and tissue donation a very small part. No federal money is spent on abortions at Planned Parenthood; most of its services are for contraception, health screenings, pregnancy tests and prenatal care for low-income women.

The Republican obsession with the group seems to come to this: denying women, especially poor women, the health care they need; pandering for primary votes among Tea Party regulars; and obstructing the budget process and the smooth functioning of government. Quite a record.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

McSally: Don't shut down government

I am no fan of AZ CD2 Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally, but I have to give her a lot of credit for a clearly thought out and expressed position on the move to shut down the government over defunding Planned Parenthood. That carries costs, for example a huge split with Cathi Herrod. The Daily Star has the story this morning.

Parting ways with other congressional Republicans, U.S. Rep. Martha McSally said Wednesday Congress should not shut down the government over funding for Planned Parenthood.

McSally said a shutdown would not only hurt taxpayers but also end up costing a lot more money than keeping the government open. She cited a series of problems that resulted from the last shutdown in 2013.

But McSally, whose district includes Tucson, told Capitol Media Services the real irony is that even if the government does shutter Oct. 1, that won’t achieve the goal of some of her colleagues to defund Planned Parenthood.

McSally is correct on both counts. Moreover she scores another point on health care provided by Planned Parenthood.

McSally said even if funding for Planned Parenthood could be cut off, it’s money that cannot legally be used for abortions. And she said that has broader implications for her constituents.

"I want to make sure that men and women in my community get access to preventative health care, birth control and what they need in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies," she said. "We should not have low-income men and especially women caught in the crossfire as collateral damage, especially when none of this is even achievable."

The one point of disagreement I have with her remarks is her apparent acceptance of the legitimacy of the video that started this attack on Planned Parenthood. But even there she hedged.

McSally, who narrowly won office last year and likely faces a tough re-election bid, called the videos "nauseating and troubling." But she said there are ways to deal with what they show short of shutting down the government.

"If people have broken the law, they need to be held accountable," she said: federal law already criminalizes selling fetal organs for profit.

Officials from Planned Parenthood Arizona have said they neither harvest nor sell tissue from aborted fetuses. The national organization has said the videos were altered.

Like I said, I am not a McSally fan. But with respect to the shut-down and defunding PP, I admit she deserves credit for her position.

Corporation Commission omissions

The Arizona Corporation Commission seems to lead with it's eyes ... and get's them blackened. Over and over.

The Republic/azcentral.com is doing the reporting on this one.

The Arizona Corporation Commission responded to public records requests from a government watchdog group with inaccurate and incomplete information about regulator Bob Stump’s phones, possibly in violation of state public records laws.

The commission revealed the errors and omissions in a letter to the Checks & Balances Project, a Washington, D.C.-area government watchdog group that has been seeking a variety of records from the commission since March.

The information revealed by the commission shows a "pattern of deception," said Scott Peterson, C&BP executive director.

... in a response to [a] follow-up public records request, commission attorney Bridget Humphrey listed all of the devices given to Stump, and none was an iPhone 3.

In a Sept. 18 letter to the group, the commission reported Stump has used additional devices that previously were not disclosed in responses to records requests ... Stump actually has been assigned an iPhone 4, an iPhone 5, an iPhone 6, a tablet and an aircard that was de-activated in February.

So Stump could not have discarded the iPhone 3 (as was earlier claimed) because, like the unicorn, it was a mythical object? So maybe those deleted text messages really do exist on one of the previously unreported devices?

The ACC keeps putting itself between a rock and a very hard place. In the harsh arena of public perception, the Commission appears incompetent or crooked.

GOP writes Pope's agenda: Pope ignores GOP

Or at least I hope he does. The pack of nasty old hypocrites is at it again. Their basic message is this. The Pope should tell them what they want to hear about moral issues (aka about sex). The Pope should not tell them what they do not want to hear about worldly issues that they think are not about morals (aka not about sex). In the latter group are things like ministering to the needy, healing the sick, preserving and protecting our planetary dominion. Those are not moral issues and hence outside the purview of the Pope. Hence our own AZ Congressman Paul Gosar boycotting the Pope's address to Congress.

... The far-right congressman said it’d be fine if the religious leader addressed moral issues Gosar cares about, but since Francis is likely to reference moral issues the pope cares about, the Arizona Republican isn’t interested.

"When the Pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one," the congressman wrote.

Gosar is a small man not big enough in intellect to listen to a big man who happens to be the leader of his church. I guess Gosar suffers from an infectious disease called moral myopia.

Check out the rest of the story by Steve Benen at Rachel Maddow Show.

What Trump, Carson, and Netanyahu share

Subtitle: Seeing evil, hearing evil, speaking evil

Tom Friedman previews a film about the assassination of Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin back in 1995. He draws parallels between the right wing incitement against Rabin and the current hate speech practiced by Trump and Carson.

The movie is called "Rabin: The Last Day." Agence France-Presse said the movie, by the renowned Israeli director Amos Gitai, is about "the incitement campaign before the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin" and "revisits a form of Jewish radicalism that still poses major risks." This is the 20th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination by Yigal Amir, a right-wing Jewish radical.

"My goal wasn’t to create a personality cult around Rabin," Gitai told A.F.P. "My focus was on the incitement campaign that led to his murder." Sure, the official investigating commission focused on the breakdowns in Rabin’s security detail, but, Gitai added, "They didn’t investigate what were the underlying forces that wanted to kill Rabin. His murder came at the end of a hate campaign led by hallucinating rabbis, settlers who were against the withdrawal from territories and the parliamentary right, led by the Likud (party), already then headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, who wanted to destabilize Rabin’s Labor government."

The film, A.F.P. said, "relied on documents, photos and videos, particularly from the months before Rabin’s assassination, including those showing speeches from politicians such as Netanyahu at rallies against the Oslo accords, where Rabin was depicted in a Nazi uniform."

I hope a lot of Americans see this film — for the warning it offers to those who ignore or rationalize the divisive, bigoted campaigns of Donald Trump and Ben Carson and how they’re dragging their whole party across civic redlines, with candidates saying, rationalizing or ignoring more and more crazy, ill-informed stuff each week.

The NY Times editorial board also condemns Trump and Carson et al. for their bigoted, inflammatory claims.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Update on government shutdown

Or should I say GOPernment. Here is an update on the effort by GOPlins in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood (aka burn down Washington) from AZBlueMeanie at B4AZ. And here is another report, less detailed, from the AP in the Daily Star/tucson.com.

Clinton takes stand against Keystone XL

Bernie Sanders has said that even if he did not get elected his candidacy would change the conversation about major issues. I don't know for sure that his opposition to XL was the ultimate cause of Clinton's stand. Pope Francis' climate change encyclical might have had something to do with it. Regardless, Clinton has finally taken a position and followed suit on XL. That was not always her position, but now that she has publicly opposed it, it is a win for environmentalists.

Details are in a report at Common Dreams cited by Bob Lord at Blog for Arizona. Given the history of Clinton's non-positions and possible positions on XL, you should understand, and might forgive, the biting comments in both reports.

Conservative watchdog group files complaint against Corporation Commissioner Bitter Smith

This must be getting bitter, not better, for Bitter Smith. Even before yesterday she was under pressure to resign for reasons of conflict of interest given her ongoing lobbying associations. Now a conservative group has weighed in.

Controversy at the state office that regulates utilities continued to snowball Tuesday with new complaints filed seeking to remove Susan Bitter Smith, the top official at the Arizona Corporation Commission.

The conservative Public Integrity Alliance sent complaints to the Secretary of State's Office and the Clean Elections Commission seeking the removal of Bitter Smith, the commission's chair.

Butch Cassidy once said "who are these guys?"

Montague, a Mesa Republican, and the Public Integrity Alliance were involved in raising money for Arizona Senate candidate Jerry Lewis in 2012 when he beat Sen. Russell Pearce in a recall election.

He also raised money and sent out fliers opposing embattled Attorney General Tom Horne in his 2014 re-election campaign, which he lost.

"We go after people behaving badly," Montague said.

That, from a conservative group, is truly refreshing.

Bitter Smith has said that because she represents the cable branches of Cox and other companies, there is no conflict with her serving as a regulator. The Corporation Commission only regulates the telecom, or landline, branches of the businesses.

Montague disagrees.

In his letters addressed to Secretary of State Michelle Reagan and Tom Collins, executive director of the Clean Elections Commission, he says Bitter Smith likely is violating the law, and the only remedy for the violation is removal from office.

"One cannot simply separate the telecommunication aspect of either Cox and its subsidiaries or SCCA's membership from the commission's statutory responsibilities," he said. "The commission is directly responsible for regulating the telephone aspect of her clients."

He said her entire term in office is likely void.

Bitter, indeed, for Bitter Smith. Too bad for her, but AZ needs to clean house. Let's start with the ACC.

Daily Trumpeter: More illegality for vets group that ran a Trump-based fundraiser

Latest news from Rachel Maddow is that the group, Veterans for a Strong America, was operating illegally in California because the group lost its license because it failed to file CA tax returns. It's beginning to sound more and more like a scammy outfit (with just one guy running the show) and that calls into question the competency of the Trump campaign. Check Rachel's video report here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Daily Trumpeter: A day without Trump ...

... is like a day without sunshine in the blogosphere.

Republican candidates: Who's in, who's out, and who should be out

Scott Walker is out!

Perry is out too.

Here's one report (of many), this one from DailyKos.com on Walker's withdrawal from the Republican primary.

Scott Walker became the second 2016 hopeful Monday to drop out of the Republican primary, following fellow GOP governor Rick Perry of Texas through the exit door. Walker, speaking from Madison, said he was inspired as a child by Ronald Reagan's "eternal optimism" and that the GOP race had devolved into a scrum of "personal attacks." For that reason, he said he felt he was being "called" to lead in an "unusual" way:

"The Bible is full of stories about people who are called to be leaders in unusual ways. Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the field in this race so that a positive conservative message will rise to the top of the field. With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately."

When Walker officially entered the race just two months ago, he was still running first in Iowa. But the entrance of Donald Trump significantly ate into his support and the latest CNN/ORC International poll showed Walker polling pathetically low: less than one-half of one percent.

I think "maudlin" is the word for Walker. Now we wait for others to be "called."

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are still in, but ...

Mathew Yglesias at Vox.com makes the interesting case for Jeb dropping out PDQ. Bush continues to tank in spite of his war chest. Rubio shares his values and outlook on issues. So Bush could do Rubio great good by dropping out and endorsing Rubio. Here's more.

Bush is also literally the only person on the planet earth who will be utterly incapable of tapping into a sense that Hillary Clinton's campaign is a bit of a tired retread.

Marco Rubio, by contrast, is a dynamic public speaker and gutsy political risk-taker (recall that he got to the Senate by beating a sitting governor in a primary) who impresses staffers on both sides of the aisle who've worked with him. Rubio performs better than Bush in head-to-head polling against Clinton.

And, crucially, Rubio has the exact same policy positions as Bush — very conservative views on abortion and foreign policy, a shared passion for deficit-increasing tax cuts, and a moderate stance on immigration. Bush was something of a political mentor to Rubio back in Florida, and had Jeb announced a year ago that he simply lacked the fire in the belly for a presidential campaign and endorsed Rubio as a political ally and ideological fellow-traveler nobody would have been shocked.

The people cashing Jeb's checks will, of course, argue that this is all incredibly premature. Bush can keep running for months and always drop out and endorse Rubio later if that's needed as some kind of stop-Trump or stop-Cruz gesture. And just because Rubio is better at politics than Bush (can you imagine someone with Bush's talents making it as far as Rubio has if he'd had Rubio's same modest origins) doesn't mean that Bush can't ultimately bury him under an avalanche of money. After all, several not-very-talented members of Bush's immediate family have gotten to the White House ahead of other, more compelling options.

That said, for months now the Bush campaign has gone nowhere but down. The more people see of Bush, the more they feel "meh" about him. If he quits now for the good of the party, people well he was a good man driven by a strong sense of duty and noblesse oblige. If he waits for months as his public support continues to bleed away, he'll be humiliated.

Why Carly Fiorina's business creds are meaningless

Vox's Ezra Klein makes the case. The goals of business and government are not the same. Guess what. Governing is far more complex.

There's a widespread fantasy that some hard-charging CEO could take control of the America government and make it run like a business. But it's mere fantasy: the US government can't run like a business because it isn't structured like a business, it doesn't have the goals of a business, and it doesn't have the tools of a business. It's possible for a brilliant CEO to be a terrible president, and vice versa.

Carly Fiorina's time at HP might tell us a lot about her, but it won't tell us that much about what kind of president she'll be, if only because she'll have to be different as president than she was as CEO.

Perhaps the simplest way to see that is to remember that virtually the entire conversation over Fiorina's tenure at HP is about her acquisition of Compaq; if the US has a bad couple of years, she can't just go buy Canada.

Borowitz Report: Koch brothers demand Scott Walker return $900 million - tell Walker "just get it"

MADISON, WISCONSIN (The Borowitz Report)—Just minutes after the Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker dropped out of the Republican Presidential race, the billionaire Koch brothers demanded that he return the nine hundred million dollars they had allocated to his campaign.

According to an aide familiar with the phone conversation between Walker and the Kochs, the industrialist brothers were “not amused” that the Governor had blown through millions of their dollars to become the choice of only one per cent of likely Republican voters.

After “tearing into Scott” for nearly thirty minutes, the Kochs reportedly demanded that Walker return their money “no later than midnight Friday.”

“B-but where am I going to come up with that kind of dough?” Walker asked.

“We don’t care how you get it, Scott,” the Kochs reportedly said. “Just get it.”

END SATIRE. More below.

Borowitz Report: Carson proves disconnect between brain surgery and intelligence

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Brain surgeons, long burdened with the onerous reputation of being among the smartest people in the world, are expressing relief that the Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson is shattering that stereotype once and for all.

In interviews with brain surgeons across the country, the doctors revealed the enormous pressure they felt to live up to their profession’s inflated renown for intelligence before Carson entered the race.

[One] brain surgeon said that he would probably contribute to Carson’s campaign to keep him in the race: “every time he says something, it helps bring people’s unrealistic expectations about brain surgeons back down to earth.”

He said that he was cheered by Carson’s pronouncement over the weekend that Muslims should not be President. “Now you can cross politics off the list of things that people will expect me to be knowledgeable about,” he said. “I think I speak for a lot of brain surgeons when I say, ‘Thank you, Ben Carson.’ ”

Monday, September 21, 2015

A zero sum game for the GOP: The House or the Presidency

Here's an interesting take on the horrible showing of GOP presidential candidates (from truthdig.com). The GOP is faced with a problem and appears to have made a decision, consciously or not.

Ben Carson’s and Donald Trump’s comments about Muslims over the weekend again showed the GOP as the party of exclusion, not inclusion (though to be fair Sen. Lindsey Graham and Gov. Chris Christie had the intestinal fortitude to denounce those comments, unlike the rest of the GOP field). Muslim-Americans only come to a few million voters, though in swing states such as Ohio, Michigan and Florida they are a large enough community such that they could be the margin of victory. They used to be divided, probably voting Republican slightly more than Democratic, but after George W. Bush’s ‘War on Terror’, they migrated in droves to the Democratic Party.

Still, they are not that consequential in and of themselves. It is rather the message the GOP is sending out to Americans that matters. And that message looks discriminatory and full of Christian rage.

Here is the problem.

If the GOP gave up its championing of the angry white man, it might lose congressional races. Its leaders [have] a choice to make, and they have decided that the presidency isn’t that important to them. They’d rather have the House.

And that is all they will have if they don’t start being nicer to key demographic groups. But this is a zero-sum game, where being nice to minorities will anger the angry white men. You can only have one of these groups. And you can’t win with only the latter.

Why Hillary Clinton is defending Planned Parenthood

Jumping into the fray created by the doctored ant-abortion video carries some political risks but is likely outweighed by the political advantage.

Greg Sargent at the Washington Post/Plum Line makes that point in his remarks on the political advantage for defending PP. Scriber thinks that Clinton believes that it is the right thing to do ... and the attendant political profit is gravy .

Here is a key similarity with the 2012 missteps by the then candidate Mitt Romney.

With Congressional Republicans scrambling to avoid a government shutdown amid the push by conservatives to defund Planned Parenthood, Hillary Clinton aligned herself squarely with the group in a Sunday interview with "Face the Nation," defending the health care services it provides for women and hitting GOP shutdown chatter as "the height of irresponsibility."

Since Planned Parenthood is probably going to be a major issue in 2016, it’s worth recalling: The Obama campaign attacked Mitt Romney for months over his position on the group. Obama’s team turned Romney’s offhand suggestion, captured on video, that "we’re gonna get rid of that," into an emblem of Romney’s paternalism and dismissive attitude towards women, in the quest to win over undecided female voters.

A key difference this time, of course, is that the Democratic presidential nominee is likely to be a woman. And this time, Clinton is fully embracing the idea that electing a female president would be groundbreaking. As explained by Dem pollster Celinda Lake, the underlying calculation behind showcasing her gender is that a woman represents a credible voice on how to make the economy work for American families. In this context, Democrats will strive to portray women’s health care as an economic issue, just as Obama did last time around. A female candidate embracing the health services the group provides for women even as her (virtually all) male Republican rivals vow to defund the group is probably a general-election contrast that the Clinton camp relishes.

Regardless of the gender of the eventual Democratic candidate, it seems to me that this is a winner. A tip-of-the-hat to House Republicans. We don't even have to work to capture you on video. You're already way out there. You are handing us the Presidency.

UPDATE: Why Ben Carson is not fit to be President

First, he is an intolerant bigot. Second, he has no apparent knowledge of the Constitution of the United States. Prove me wrong.

In the meantime, while you're working on that challenge, check out this New Republic article on the vast difference between what Ben Carson believes and what the Constitution actually says. Here are snippets.

Dr. Ben Carson excels in addled interpretations of America’s founding principles. In May, the Republican presidential candidate claimed that the president has the power to ignore the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling. And last month, when asked by Meet the Press’ Chuck Todd whether the Bible has "authority" over the Constitution, said, "That is not a simple question." He extended this streak of misinterpretation on Sunday when Todd asked him whether he thought "Islam is consistent with the Constitution." Carson replied, "No, I don't, I do not," and then added, "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that."

The larger issue, however, is the tendency of many Americans these days, both in and out of politics but especially conservatives, to evoke the Constitution without having any idea what it says or does not say. Even worse, they use a document whose sole purpose was to guarantee freedoms to attempt to try to limit the freedoms of those with whom they disagree. The Constitution is imperfect, of course, and in practice has been used to validate some terrible injustices—slavery, the deportation of Japanese-Americans, or speech that some found politically offensive. But past sins in no way means that we should condescend to our worst instincts. The Constitution can also be a tool to create a society where any American can grow up to be president, even a former neurosurgeon who seems to have little respect for its spirit.

A test for fitness as a candidate for high office should not be membership in any religion. Nor should skin color be a criterion. Regardless of Carson being black and christian, he is not suited for the presidency (or any other political office). And that would still be true if he were white and muslim.

If candidates like Carson can’t be bothered to read and understand the 4,500 words that comprise our founding document, they should not be considered fit for the job that requires they defend it.

Carson attempts political suicide by shooting himself in the foot

He used a scatter gun that wounded the whole GOP as well. Kevin Freking and Julie Pace at the Associated Press wrote the story. h/t Daily Star

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican Party's plan to broaden its appeal with minority groups is clashing at times with comments from some of its presidential aspirants.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson says he believes that Islam is inconsistent with the Constitution and "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation."

Carson's comments, aired Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," brought a quick rebuke from the head of the Democratic National Committee and a major advocacy group for Muslims, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which noted that the Constitution expressly bars a religious test for those seeking public office.

"You cannot hold these kinds of views and at the same time say you will represent all Americans, of all faiths and backgrounds," said Ibrahim Hooper, the group's spokesman.

This is a classic example of the difference between knowing and doing. Some folks in the GOP establishment know they have a problem. But getting candidates, like Carson and Trump, to behave accordingly is proving impossible for them.

After a blistering examination of the 2012 election, a report commissioned by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus concluded, "If our party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out."

But that is putting lipstick on a pig.

Steve Schmidt, who served as Republican Sen. John McCain's top strategist in the 2008 presidential election, said it's problematic for the GOP to be seen as intolerant, particularly with moderate voters who help sway the general election.

"Of course it's worrisome if you have a party that's perceived as anti-Latino, anti-Asian, anti-gay, intolerant of Muslims," Schmidt said.

Asked specifically about Carson's comments on NBC, Schmidt said it exposed him as an amateur politician and underscored his "total lack of understanding about the American political system."

It's not just Carson. The GOP itself is not "welcoming" and "inclusive." It's still a pig.

Why the Republican candidates won't talk about the economy ... and why they should

Catherine Rampell's column in the Daily Star has the reasons.

To the great disappointment of econo-nerds everywhere, the economy was almost entirely ignored during Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate. Over the course of three hours, the moderators and debaters found time for but a few minutes of discussion on the economy, most of that on the minimum wage.

There was almost nothing on jobs; nothing on inflation; one throwaway mention of trade; and nothing on the Federal Reserve’s impending interest-rate decision.

There’s actually a good reason why Republican candidates might want to avoid talking about the economy, both in televised debates and on the campaign trail more broadly. That’s because it’s hard to run against the economy these days, at least given the numbers.

Despite nearly seven years of stewardship by a supposedly crypto-socialist president, the U.S. economy is looking — dare I say it? — pretty good.

All the GOP predictions of doom and gloom failed. We know that Republicans don't like to talk about their failures.

However, there are persistent problems with the economy that cry for public debate.

There are of course some major weaknesses obscured by the rosy headline numbers I rattled off earlier. The share of prime-working-age people who are in the labor force is at its lowest level since the mid-1980s. This arguably makes the unemployment rate, which only factors in those actively in the labor force, look artificially low. Median household incomes have flat-lined and are lower today than they were in 1997, after adjusting for inflation.

The policies needed to fix these thornier problems are mostly the domain of fiscal policymakers. Which is precisely why we desperately need the current crop of presidential candidates to talk more about the economy and provide some specifics about what they might do to improve it — even if that conversation requires some uncomfortable admissions about how much they’ve underestimated Obama’s (and the Fed’s) policies all along.

Unfortunately, the last part of that closing comment is exactly why the Cleveland Clowns will not talk about the economy. And even if they did, it would Jebberish. To paraphrase an old saying: "If a Republican could speak, we could not understand him."