Sunday, January 31, 2016

More on Prop 123: Two views on what happens if it passes

Readers should know by now that I am not a fan of Prop 123 which I characterize as Ducey's Choice. Prop 123 pits the immediate need for financial help to public schools against the longer term health of education funding. Further, I contend that Prop 123 is a cleverly designed mechanism of effecting a transfer payment from future education funding to tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy: #123TaxBreaksForMe. The result, come May 17, voters who support public education will split their votes because any vote is flawed. The voters will individually decide how to inflict more damage on public education in the state of Arizona. That's Ducey's Choice.

But decide for yourself. Here are two arguments about Prop 123, one pro and one con.

Linda Lyon, in a response to comments on one of her posts at Blog for Arizona (and restorereason.com), argues succinctly for passage of Prop 123.

... every time someone says they don’t to “give Ducey a win” by voting for Prop 123, it just feels like it is more about politics than about the kids. I say pass 123 and then fight twice as hard.

In response (at Blog for Arizona), Pat Baker, takes the opposite view.

Prop 123 is not about the kids. It is about politics. In 2000 Arizona voters passed Proposition 301 which called for annual inflation adjustments to the base education funding formula. Since 2010, the state withheld this funding.

This was a slap in the face to those who voted for Prop 301, because the State has withheld over a billion dollars, all of which was supposed to go to public education. In essence the state has ignored the voice of the public even though in 2013 the Arizona Court of Appeals said the state is to pay all the back money it owes to its public schools. The State’s response was literally the equivalent of telling the public to “jump in the lake.” The state refuses to pay this debt it owes its public schools.

Now the state is proposing another concept, which is being rolled out to the public for voting. It is Proposition 123. The State once again is asking voters to support Prop 123. The State claims Prop 123 will not increase taxes but will support public education to the tune of $3.5 billion. It really sounds like the State is bending backwards and being overly generous. BUT . . .

The State still owes an outstanding debt to its public schools, to the tune of approximately $1.7 billion dollars from all those years it withheld monies beginning in 2010. So if you factor out that figure of $1.7 billion from the $3.5 billion the State wants to spend, from the school children’s own piggy bank of the Land Trust Fund, well what are you left with . . . $1.8 billion. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Yet, a vote for Prop 123 means school districts give up their right to sue the state for the $1.7 billion the schools are already owed. Seems to me the State is once again bamboozling the public and denigrating the voice of the very people it asked to support the original Prop 301.

It is all about politics and those in power at the State level, who want you to believe that you really do have a vote in these matters. When in fact, the State has the power to ignore and toss out voter input when it is convenient to the State.

It is not about fighting harder once Prop 123 is passed. Once this Proposition is passed, and based on the State’s past rejection of voter input, how does one know the State won’t ignore the tenets of Prop 123 as well?

Once the State pays the back monies it already owes schools, then and only then can one consider anything like Prop 123. There are many websites one can go to understand why Prop 123, at this point in time, is a shallow political response to the funding of public schools in Arizona.

Let's call it like it is. It's not "the state" that is at fault. It is the dominance of Republicans in the state government. You bet it is about politics.

Arizona's proposed motto: Penny wise and pound foolish

Linda Lyon (restorereason.com and Blog for Arizona) has an excellent post on comparing a low tax state (Arizona) with a high tax state (Massachusetts). Here are some comparisons.

That's what low taxes buys you. But there are more tax breaks on the way so look for AZ's rankings to tank.

Below are Lyon's opening and closing paragraphs. Check out her post for more comparisons about the investment (MA) vs. austerity (AZ) approaches to state management.

As a kid, one of my favorite authors was Charles Dickens. In his 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities, he “depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralized by the French aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution.” Hmm, peasantry demoralized by the aristocracy…that reminds me of something…wait, I’ll think of it. Maybe, it is the fact that the 62 richest people in the world now own more than the poorest half? In fact, their wealth has increased 44% since 2010 while the bottom half’s has dropped by 41%. And in the U.S., the wealth inequity is now worse than at any time since the Great Depression. The Walton family alone owns more wealth than 42% of American families combined and CEO-to-worker pay-ratio is 354-to-1. Americans haven’t taken to the streets with pitchforks (the “Occupy” movement aside) to demand “off with their heads” yet because for the most part, they still believe in the American Dream. That is if one works hard enough, they can move up the economic ladder. The truth is more like comedian George Carlin joked: “the reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

So let’s recap. Massachusetts performs better than Arizona in education, child welfare, health and safety, the economy and many other areas. Yes, taxes are a little higher ($1,706 per person in 2013), but look what you get for your money! I’m well aware of course that this line of reasoning will fall on many a deaf ear that think the only good government is a starved one. It can’t be said enough though that taxes are not bad or good, they are the price of living in a well-functioning society with a decent quality of life. There are many things such as education for all and safety that are best provided by the government. It our duty (the voters) to determine our priorities for our hard earned tax dollars and then elect candidates that will ensure those priorities are provided for and secured. That is how we keep ourselves free.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

HCR 2009 is the ultimate in gerrymandering: AIRC would become the ARC

The Arizona voters established the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) to provide for a better, less partisan means of redrawing district maps. A group of House GOPlins are out to destroy that commission by making it what amounts to the Arizona Republican Commission. Here's the scoop (snippets quoted from HCR 2009 - emphases added).

What it is

HCR 2009
Introduced by Representatives Petersen, Townsend, Senator Farnsworth D
A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION
PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF ARIZONA; AMENDING ARTICLE IV, PART 2, SECTION 1, CONSTITUTION OF ARIZONA; RELATING TO THE INDEPENDENT REDISTRICTING COMMISSION.

What gets scratched

Everything! The original language, almost in total, establishing the AIRC is trashed. Here is an example of what HCR 2009 strikes out.

No more than two members of the independent redistricting commission shall be members of the same political party. Of the first four members appointed, no more than two shall reside in the same county. Each member shall be a registered Arizona voter who has been continuously registered with the same political party or registered as unaffiliated with a political party for three or more years immediately preceding appointment, who is committed to applying the provisions of this section in an honest, independent and impartial fashion and to upholding public confidence in the integrity of the redistricting process. Within the three years previous to appointment, members shall not have been appointed to, elected to, or a candidate for any other public office, including precinct committeeman or committeewoman but not including school board member or officer, and shall not have served as an officer of a political party, or served as a registered paid lobbyist or as an officer of a candidate's campaign committee.

The rest of the original language is struck as well. That language provides for, and limits the character of, the pool of nominees to the AIRC and how they are chosen. The commission on appellate court appointments creates the pool of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents from which the House and Senate majority and minority leaders pick four. The resulting two Democratic and two Republican commissioners then select an Independent from the original pool.

I know that many folks see ways to improve this process, e.g., by expanding the number of commissioners. But HCR 2009 is absolutely the worst possible "fix." So what does HCR 2009 do?

What is new

BEGINNING ON THE SECOND MONDAY IN JANUARY of each year that ends in one, an independent redistricting commission IS established to provide for the redistricting of congressional and state legislative districts. The independent redistricting commission shall consist of five members, EACH OF WHOM SHALL SERVE A TERM OF TEN YEARS. THE COMMISSION MEMBERS SHALL BE ELECTED AT THE REGULAR GENERAL ELECTION HELD IN EACH YEAR THAT ENDS IN ZERO, IN THE SAME MANNER AS OTHERWISE PROVIDED BY LAW FOR OTHER STATEWIDE OFFICES, AND SHALL MEET THE SAME ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS AS PRESCRIBED IN THE CONSTITUTION AS FOR THE OFFICE OF GOVERNOR.

So the bottom line here is that whichever political party is in the majority in the state gets to win all five of the seats on the "independent" redistricting commission. This is another example of how the Tea-publican legislature is out to thwart the will of the electorate.

This one needs to be beaten to a pulp. Start your letter writing now.

P. S.

Not convinced? Here is one more limitation on the commission that is removed by HCR 2009. Nothing like permitting the commissioners to profit financially from their service. Only the Greedy Oligarchical Patriarchs could dream up this one.

A commissioner, during the commissioner's term of office and for three years thereafter, shall be ineligible for Arizona public office or for registration as a paid lobbyist.

h/t Sandy Bahr via Michele Manos.

Jeb Bush resurrects brain-damaged Terry Schiavo ... to force her to live again against her wishes?

Yep. Daily Kos has the report about Bush's new ad showcasing his intervention in the Schiavo's family affairs.

It seems that Jeb Bush, now reduced to an asterisk (*) in the 2016 Republican Presidential contest, has concluded that the best way to quickly burn through those millions upon millions of dollars in campaign donations he received is to perform a supreme act of self-immolation, by resurrecting the infamous Terry Schiavo fiasco in a new campaign ad, paid for, morbidly enough, by a Bush PAC that calls itself “Right To Rise."

In addition to touting his high score with the NRA , the voice-over in Bush’s new ad celebrates how then-Florida governor Bush “fought time and again for the right to life," with an image of someone leaning over Schiavo, lying in a helpless vegetative state in her hospital bed.

And while the general electorate will likely recoil in horror at this kind of crass opportunism, Bush apparently hopes the Republican base will be shocked and awed as they are reminded of his role in forcing the irreversibly and profoundly brain-damaged Schiavo to cling to life in direct contravention of what her husband explained would have been her own desires, simply to bolster his credentials among the forced-birth crowd of ghouls who demanded that the poor woman be kept resuscitated at all costs, no matter how much pain it caused to others. Because abortion or something.

The Schiavo episode served as a teachable moment for the rest of the country to see just how extreme the Republican Party could be in attempting to impose and enforce its twisted sense of values upon the rest of us. All pretense of “keeping government" out of the people’s lives went straight out the window. By raising the specter of venal politicians exercising wanton control over other people’s personal life and death decisions, the GOP showed its true colors as it never had before ...

[snip] -- check the rest of the article for more background on Bush's intervention in this one family's difficulties. Limited gummint my Rse.

As things currently stand it does not appear likely that Jeb Bush will ever “get his hands on the power of government again.” But the fact that he is running this ad solely to please an audience of rabid conservative Republican voters should tell us something terribly disquieting about the candidate they actually do end up selecting for us.

Link to the ad on YouTube

Link to the interview with Schiavo's husband from Politico

Here is part of the interview with Mike Schiavo.

“Using his disgraceful intervention in our family’s private trauma to advance his political career shows that he has learned nothing,” Mike Schiavo continued in the statement. “He’s proud of the fact that he used the machinery of government to keep a person alive through extraordinary artificial means — contrary to the orders of the court that were based on the court's determination, made over six years of litigation, that doing so would be against her wishes.

"What the campaign video shows is that if he ever got his hands on the power of government again, he would do the same thing again, maybe next time to your family.”

Now does anyone believe that any of the rat pack of GOP candidates would have handled the Schiavo case differently? If so, please guide me to the published evidence.

Friday, January 29, 2016

There is a campaign after Iowa and New Hampshire

Bernie Sanders made appearances in Minnesota even while the major media stays focused on Iowa and New Hampshire. John Nichols (The Nation) previews the rest of the campaign.

Watching the cable news shows, reading the national papers, and even following social media, you would think that the 2016 presidential campaign will begin in Iowa and end in New Hampshire.

But the contests for the 2016 nominations of the Republican and Democratic parties are not going to be finished on February 1 in Iowa or February 9 in New Hampshire. Iowa’s caucuses begin a process that will select 46 pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention. New Hampshire’s primary will select 24 pledged delegates. In a nomination contest will be decided by 4,764 Democratic delegates, these two states account for less than 2 percent of the total.

That is why, though most media outlets paid little attention to the story, Bernie Sanders was not in Davenport or Dubuque on the Tuesday before the Iowa caucuses. He was in Duluth.

Why Duluth? Because Minnesota will be caucusing on March 1—a day that will see hundreds of delegates selected in 11 states and American Samoa. (Democrats Abroad will also begin a week of voting that day.)

This is the political reality of the evolving 2016 race: while the focus now is on Iowa and New Hampshire (and to a lesser extent on later February contests in Nevada and South Carolina), the road to the convention travels through every state and district, commonwealth and territory. And with polls suggesting that the Democratic race has grown more competitive, front-runner Hillary Clinton and Sanders are both adjusting to the prospects of a longer-haul competition. When and where this contest will finish remains to be seen. It still could be decided quickly, if one candidate posts a steady streak of early wins.

But Sanders is counting on a long run. He just proposed that the Democratic National Committee schedule new debates in March, April, and May.

Sanders packed the houses in both Duluth and St. Paul where he spoke about his progressive policies and priorities.

[Keith] Ellison, the congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair who gave the senator rousing introductions Tuesday, suggested that “Minnesota is all about Bernie Sanders.”

Hillary Clinton and her supporters will have something to say about that. Clinton campaigned in Minnesota last month, delivering a major speech on combating terror at the University of Minnesota. She drew loud cheers there, especially when she delivered the line, “If you are too dangerous to fly, you are too dangerous to buy a gun—period.” The former secretary of state is backed by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, and she’s still well ahead in the polls. And her aides say she will be back to Minnesota soon.

But Sanders continues to think and talk long-term.

Sounding very much like a candidate who is thinking long-term, Sanders said in Duluth: “There’s nothing more in this life that I would look forward to than running against Donald Trump."

Corporation Commissioner Burns ups the ante, requires Arizona Public Service to open their books

Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Burns is finally getting serious about Arizona Public Service's alleged 2014 campaign spending. Previously he wrote a "request" to the APS CEO who then stiffed Burns - in spite of the constitutional basis for ACC's access to financial records of the companies they regulate. This time it's a "requirement." Here are snippets from a report in the Arizona Capitol Times (subcription required); a similar report was carried by the Daily Star).

Burns says he has the authority under Arizona law to “expressly direct” APS to turn over its book for inspection. He will choose a representative to conduct the inspections and interview people, and he wants the entire examination of records to be done under oath in order to create a written record.

“To be clear, unlike my previous communications, this letter is not intended as a request, but is instead a requirement for your cooperation,” Burns concluded.

ARS 40-241 says “the commission, each commissioner and person employed by the commission may, at any time, inspect the accounts, books, papers and documents of any public service corporation.” The statute also gives the power to examine, under oath, any people employed by the public service corporation.

Burns told the Arizona Capitol Times he’ll have to wait and see what APS says in response to his letter before figuring out what his next step is. He’s said before that he’s willing to subpoena the company in order to force them to disclose spending.

“This is a state statute, this is a law. I think if they just come out and say no without any explanation, they would be in violation of the law,” Burns said.

No kidding.

The Yellow Sheet Report has a summary of Burns' action and speculates that it is a prelude to a lawsuit from the ACC against APS.

After his earlier pleas fell on deaf ears, Burns today issued a demand to APS: Turn over your books. Citing his authority under ARS 40-241 to inspect the records of public service corporations, Burns told APS to make its accounts, books, papers and other documents, and the individuals who can answer the questions about those records, available for an inquiry that he is launching.

"Translation: A lawsuit is coming"

Is Rachel Maddow the last investigative journalist?

Could be according to this post at Daily Kos. The author congratulates Rachel for her tenacious reporting on the Flint, Michigan water scandal and the culpability of Rick Snyder and his administration. This is indeed what journalists are supposed to do.

Republican lawmakers hate regulations - but not the ones they make

Here's one example. Last year, the Idioture passed a law meant to prevent local ordinances regulating plastic bags. Guv Doozey signed off on it. The problem was that the law was unconstitutional because it also prohibited local mandates for energy consumption reporting by building owners. In Arizona, laws must be about a single subject. This year's Idiotors figured out a response - just running two bills. There are good reasons to believe that that ploy won't work but the Idioture will likely pass these bills anyway.

Following snippets are from the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required, but reprinted in the Daily Star).

With last year’s law under legal challenge, state lawmakers launched a new bid Wednesday to prevent cities and counties from regulating or banning plastic bags.

The new version of the law HB 2131, is identical to what Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law last year.

But last year’s law also included a separate prohibition against local governments forcing building owners to conduct “energy audits” and report on their power use. That allowed foes to charge that the statute violates constitutional requirements that all laws concern only a single subject.

With that change, the measure cleared the House Commerce Committee on a 4-2 party line vote. So did HB 2130, the energy audit ban, now as a separate measure.

The opposition to such attempts by the State to interfere with local regulations is grounded in the state's constitution and its provision for charter cities.

But the tactic by Rep. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, may not end the lawsuit filed by a Tempe city council member.
Lauren Kuby points out that her city, along with 17 others, has adopted its own charter. And the Arizona Constitution gives those communities the right to enact laws of local concern no matter what is in state law.

So Kuby, through attorney Tim Hogan of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, wants Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Douglas Gerlach to rule that what was approved last year — and, by extension, any change approved this year — is unenforceable in Tempe and the other charter cities.

Hogan, in challenging the law, said the Arizona Constitution “gives charter cities certain rights and privileges in local matters to legislate free from interference by the Legislature.” And he said the question of recycling fits the bill.
“Waste has always been a local issue, with cities operating trash management, the landfills,” he said.

And that, said Hogan, means the wishes of local voters and their elected representatives trump the mandates of the Legislature. He said lawmakers can override local ordinances only on matters of statewide concern.

You would think that lawmakers have better things to do with their time other than pass unconstitutional legislation. Or maybe not.

The Goldwater Institute's case for deregulation of just about everything

The Arizona State Idioture is back in session. The GOPlins have figured out how to earn their pay by doing little - and thinking not at all: they can let the lobbyists write the laws for them. "Carrying" a bill should be taken literally.

Here's a case in point - what I will call a GI Bill. It's not what you or members of your family might have used to pay for their college education. It's short for a Goldwater Institute bill.

Following are snippets from the Daily Star's report yesterday morning.

On a 5-3 margin Wednesday the House Commerce Committee voted to require every city, county and state agency to review every regulation and detail how each is necessary to protect public health, safety or welfare. The legislation would then mandate that the restrictions be modified or repealed if they do not serve those purposes.

Anyone who believes a rule or ordinance is excessive could then sue. And if the government did not prove the rule’s necessity — and the burden would be on the government, not the person challenging the rule — a judge would be required to void it.

Let's lean on this one. Say a restaurant has been reported in the Daily Star as being out of compliance with food safety rules. You know - the rules that require handling of foods in a manner so that the foods you eat will not make you sick. But, you see, that interferes with your bidness. So you sue the city. Ands the city picks up the tab for your lawsuit.

Patrice Kraus, lobbyist for the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said the measure is flawed.

For example, she said, a city would have to prove a regulation is “necessary” to protect health, safety or welfare. Kraus said that would allow a business owner to argue that a retail sales tax permit is illegal because it is not necessary to meet any of those goals.

“This could lead to a lot of frivolous lawsuits,” she told lawmakers. Kraus noted that the law does not allow cities to recover their legal fees even if a judge sides with them.

[Goldwater Institute attorney] Riches defended that provision ensuring that those who sue face no financial risk, even if they lose. He said it would be wrong to let a city seek legal fees from “somebody who’s just trying to earn a living.”

Marvelous. That line of thinking is enough to give one a case of the GIs.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Siding with Fox's Megyn Kelly deeply disturbing to millions: Is Trump liable for their psychiatric treatments?

On Thursday, one of the guests on CNN explained to news anchor Brooke Baldwin how Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly was taking the high road in the dust-up between Fox News and Donald Trump.

Whaaaa? High road? Fox? Not everyone agrees as reported by Andy Borowitz at The New Yorker.

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—Millions of Americans are expressing their resentment and outrage at being put in the appalling position of siding with the Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, a state of affairs that many are calling “intolerable.”

“Never in a million years did I envision a situation where I would be on the same side as Megyn Kelly,” Tracy Klugian, of Butte, Montana, said. “Now that I find myself in just such a situation, let me say this: it’s horrible. Truly horrible.”

Carol Foyler, of Tacoma, Washington, worries about the “long-term implications” of being forced to side with Megyn Kelly. “Is there some scenario where I might be forced to side with Bill O’Reilly, or Hannity?” she asked. “It’s a goddam slippery slope.”

See Andy's report for more reactions and an on-line community to help cope with the emotional trauma induced by having to choose between Kelly and Trump. Now we wait for the personal injury lawsuits.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Hernandez announces run for Arizona LD2 House

In case you missed it: Daniel Hernandez will get into the LD2 race. Here is how it shapes up - so far - from the Daily Star.

The District 2 race is expected to be competitive. Incumbent Republican Chris Ackerley and incumbent Democrat Rosanna Gabaldon are running for another term. Newcomer Aaron Baumann, a Democrat, is also running.

On the Senate side, Andrea Dalessandro is the incumbent unopposed in the Democratic primary.

... Here’s a look at who has filed to run in 2016 so far.

DISTRICT 2

Senate: Andrea Dalessandro, D; Shelley Kais, R.

House: Chris Ackerley, R; Aaron Baumann, D; Rosanna Gabaldon, D; Daniel Hernandez, D.

Oregon armed occupiers arrested, one reported killed

Some critical details are lacking, like who was doing the shooting, but it looks like law enforcement officers swept up the bunch of the militia types who were occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Following are snippets from the NY Times.

The F.B.I. and the Oregon State Police said that Mr. [Ammon] Bundy, his brother and three other people, including Shawna Cox, 59, of Kanab, Utah, and Ryan Waylen Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Mont., were arrested on a state highway, but they provided no further details. Ms. Cox and Mr. Payne were prominent in speaking for the refuge. Also arrested on the highway was Brian Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nev.

The authorities said only that shots were fired during the course of the arrest. Two other people: Peter Santilli, 50, of Cincinnati, and Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy, 45, of Cottonwood, Ariz., were arrested later in Burns, and John Eric Ritzheimer, 32, turned himself in to the police in Peoria, Ariz., the authorities said. All of the defendants face a federal felony charge of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats.

Fact-checking the feckless fact-less GOP candidates: Why true conservatives (should) fear Trump and Cruz

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz currently are leaders of the GOP rat pack running for the high office of President of the United States. And that is scaring the bejesus out of the Republican "establishment" on the eve of the Iowa caucus. There just is no viable alternative in the Republican stable. I'll get around to the fact-checking in a moment, but let's first consider the numbers rattling all the cages, and then let's study those fear responses.

Who's ahead, who's not, and why

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reviews the latest polls. Here, in brief, are the results. Trump scored higher than anyone else including himself at 41% (average of the polls = 35.5). Cruz's highest result was far less - 29% (average 2.8).

And Trump is winning over Cruz with another demographic - evangelicals. Jerry Falwell announced his endorsement of Trump, as reported in several outlets like this piece from the Daily Beast. The report is that Trump has been "bromancing" Falwell for years.

Breaking news: The New York Times reports that Trump will skip the next Republican debate on Fox News. It sounds serious this time and might reflect the Trump campaign's sense of having Iowa wrapped up.

Rubio is trailing far behind at 13% (average 10%). Carson has almost dropped out at 6-7% and Bush is no better (3-9%). These guys are beating each other up while Trump coasts to victory.

What worries the GOP establishment

The New York Times' reporting about the GOP's reactions informs us about the fears of the establishment types.

Republican leaders are growing alarmed by the ferocious ways the party’s mainstream candidates for president are attacking one another, and they fear that time is running out for any of them to emerge as a credible alternative to Donald J. Trump or Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Leaders of the Republican establishment, made up of elected officials, lobbyists and donors, are also sending a message to the mainstream candidates, such as former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, that they should withdraw from the race if they do not show strength soon.

The party elders had hoped that one of their preferred candidates, such as Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, would be rising above the others by now and becoming a contender to rally around.

Instead, they have a muddled field of battered mainstream candidates: Mr. Bush, Mr. Rubio, Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.

The cumulative effect of all the ads, and corresponding attacks through harshly worded mailings, has been to stunt the growth of the so-called establishment candidates, keeping them clustered together in New Hampshire polls while Mr. Trump soars.

“These guys are so busy fighting one another that they’re only continuing to facilitate the rise of Trump and Cruz,” complained Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, a longtime Republican strategist.

Some in the party now concede that it might take until March or beyond for the Republican establishment to coalesce behind an alternative to the current front-runners. And that could be too late to catch either Mr. Trump or Mr. Cruz.

As the Times points out, there is no sign that the circular firing squad is letting up. So Trump and Cruz will continue to hog the limelight while the 10-percenters fire at each other.

Why conservatives should fear: Trumps's corruption of conservatism

Both Trump and Cruz appeal to, and provide fodder for, the anti-empirical celebration of ignorance that characterizes their supporters. Both express their conservative credentials in terms of historical conservative institutions and individuals. And both are either misinformed or are purposely mischaracterizing their own conservative predecessors. John Nichols (The Nation) does some fact-checking on their falsehoods - Trump about William F. Buckley and the National Review and Cruz about Ronald Reagan.

National Review, the often-defining voice of conservatism over the past six decades, the favored publication of Ronald Reagan and of those who claim the Reagan mantle, has pulled out all the stops in the battle to avert the nomination of Donald Trump by the Republican Party.

The magazine is fighting more than an electoral battle. It is waging a serious struggle to prevent the redefinition of conservatism as Trumpism—so serious, and so clear in its intent, that the Republican National Committee has disinvited National Review from a partnership with NBC on the party’s February 28 presidential debate in Houston. The magazine’s publisher responded that exclusion from the debate was a “small price to pay for speaking the truth about The Donald.”

The point of National Review’s intervention is to suggest that there remains a mainstream and reasonably responsible conservative tradition in American politics—and that Trump is not a part of it.

National Review has intervened with this purpose before. The magazine’s founder, William F. Buckley Jr., challenged the far-right John Birch Society and its allies in the early 1960s, and he challenged anti-Semitism and crude nationalism in the early 1990s. I spent time with Buckley in that period, talking politics and ideology. We disagreed on issues, but I was always struck by Buckley’s sense of duty to defend conservatism as a clear and coherent ideology that did not bend too far to match the politics, or the fears, of any moment. He did not mind waging a losing battle that might clarify the ideals and goals of the movement, as he did with his 1965 New York City mayoral race on the Conservative Party line, and with his magazine’s decision on the cusp of the 1972 primary season to suspend support for Richard Nixon and endorse the insurgent primary challenge by Ohio Congressman John Ashbrook to the renomination of a sitting Republican president.

Buckley liked to take stands. And he was proud to challenge false prophets of conservatism.

So here is how Trump responded to the National Review. “The late, great, William F. Buckley would be ashamed of what had happened to his prize, the dying National Review!” “The National Review’s a dying paper. Its circulation’s way down. Not very many people read it anymore. People don’t even think about the National Review. I guess they wanted to get a little publicity.”

And here is part of Nichols' response.

... Buckley was a Trump critic in the years before the writer’s death in 2008. In 2000, when Trump was toying with a presidential run on the Reform Party ticket, Buckley warned:

Look for the narcissist. The most obvious target in today’s lineup is, of course, Donald Trump. When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection. If Donald Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America. But whatever the depths of self-enchantment, the demagogue has to say something. So what does Trump say? That he is a successful businessman and that that is what America needs in the Oval Office. There is some plausibility in this, though not much. The greatest deeds of American Presidents—midwifing the new republic; freeing the slaves; harnessing the energies and vision needed to win the Cold War—had little to do with a bottom line.

I suspect a lot of the readers of this blog are horrified by the specter of Trump as President. I guess that most of the readers also are at odds with Buckley's conservatism. But, for me, Buckley was a principled conservative. While I disagree with it, I respect it. Trump's candidacy has no principles as far as I can tell and Donald Trump does not merit respect of true conservatives.

Is Cruz any better -- any more honest in his conservatism? I doubt it. Nichols trashes Cruz's comments on his hero, Ronald Reagan.

Ripping Trump for past expressions of sympathy with the Democratic party and at least some of its preferred programs, Cruz declared the other day in New Hampshire that “Ronald Reagan did not spend the first 60 years of his life supporting Democratic politicians, advocating for big government.”

Seriously?

Does Ted Cruz not remember that Ronald Reagan was a Democrat before he was a Republican?

... Reagan did not spend “the first 60 years of his life” as a Democrat. But Reagan was 51 at the time of his party switch.

In those 51 years, literally from birth, Reagan was an ardent New Deal Democrat who supported liberal causes.

So much so that he would deliver one of the best-recalled radio addresses on behalf of Harry Truman’s 1948 presidential campaign and Democrats running for Congress that year.

“This is Ronald Reagan speaking to you from Hollywood. You know me as a motion picture actor but tonight I’m just a citizen pretty concerned about the national election next month and more than a little impatient with those promises the Republicans made before they got control of Congress a couple years ago,” he began, before complaining that because of positions taken by a Republican-led Congress, “The profits of corporations have doubled, while workers’ wages have increased by only one-quarter. In other words, profits have gone up four times as much as wages, and the small increase workers did receive was more than eaten up by rising prices, which have also bored into their savings.”

Sounding not so different from the progressive populists of 2016, Reagan concluded: “In the false name of economy, millions of children have been deprived of milk once provided through the federal school lunch program. This was the payoff of the Republicans’ promises. And this is why we must have new faces in the Congress of the United States: Democratic faces.”

No one is denying that Reagan became a conservative Republican. But his history as a Democrat continued to influence him even during his presidency: he retraced parts of Harry Truman’s 1948 whistle-stop campaign on a train in the Midwest; he paid tribute to Humphrey as the “great happy warrior”; and he even found room for compromise with House Speaker Tip O’Neill, a proud Democratic defender of the New Deal legacy.

When Ted Cruz was trying to shut down Congress several years ago, historians recalled the ability of Reagan and O’Neill to find common ground. Cruz lacks that ability for many reasons, including, no doubt, the fact that the senator’s recollection of Ronald Reagan seems more politically expedient than sincere.

Fact-less. Feckless. Fear mongering. Neither Buckley nor Reagan would be very happy with this devolution of their Republican party and the corruption of conservatism.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ballot harvesting bill is back - but no evidence for ballot harvesting

If ever there was a poster child for the triumph of truthiness over truth, this is it.

Despite no evidence for voter fraud, this year's Idioture will once again take up a bill banning assisting voters to get their early ballots counted. Howard Fischer at Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required - also in Daily Star) reports.

Insisting there must be fraud taking place, a Republican-controlled House committee voted Monday to make it a felony to take someone else’s early ballot to a polling place.

The 4-2 party-line vote on HB2023 came after a series of speakers, many with links to the Republican Party, said they have heard of situations where groups collect ballots and then choose to turn in only those where the vote is likely to go the way they want. They said that can be as simple as figuring out the political registration of the person whose ballot is being picked up to peering through less-than-opaque envelopes.

More than two hours of testimony, however, turned up no actual evidence beyond hearsay. Even state Elections Director Eric Spencer conceded he could point to no specific instances where someone tossed away someone else’s early ballot, something that already is a crime.

But Rep. Michele Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, who chairs the House Education Committee, said it should not be necessary to wait before outlawing what has been termed “ballot harvesting.”

“It increases the opportunity for fraud to exist,” she said.

As far as I know, there is no law on the books that outlaws murder by seaweed. But, according to Ugenti's logic, we should have one before it happens.

And Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said it’s irrelevant whether there is fraud or not.

“What is indisputable is that many people believe it’s happening,” he said.

“You can’t really argue with that,” Mesnard continued. “And I think that matters.”

See? For these dolts, truthiness is what matters.

Be careful what you ask for

A Texas grand jury, asked to investigate Planned Parenthood alleged sale of fetal tissue, has instead indicted two abortion foes. The NY Times broke the story (also carried this morning in the Daily Star).

HOUSTON — A grand jury here that was investigating accusations of misconduct against Planned Parenthood has instead indicted two abortion opponents who made undercover videos of the organization.

Prosecutors in Harris County said one of the leaders of the Center for Medical Progress — an anti-abortion group that made secretly recorded videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue — had been indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, a felony, and on a misdemeanor charge related to purchasing human organs.

That leader, David R. Daleiden, 27, the director of the center, had posed as a biotechnology representative to infiltrate Planned Parenthood affiliates and surreptitiously record his efforts to procure tissue for research. Another center employee, Sandra S. Merritt, 62, was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record.

The record-tampering charges accused Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt of making and presenting fake California driver’s licenses, with the intent to defraud, for their April meeting at Planned Parenthood in Houston.

Sweet!

On Monday, the Harris County district attorney, Devon Anderson, said in a statement that grand jurors had cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.

She declined to provide details about the case against Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt, including any documents or evidence presented to the grand jury, citing state law on the secrecy of grand jury proceedings.

“As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us,” Ms. Anderson said. “All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.”

But the beat goes on ...

Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, said on Monday that the inspector general of the state’s Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas attorney general’s office have been investigating Planned Parenthood’s actions.

“Nothing about today’s announcement in Harris County impacts the state’s ongoing investigation,” Mr. Abbott said in a statement. “The State of Texas will continue to protect life, and I will continue to support legislation prohibiting the sale or transfer of fetal tissue.”

Abbott's administration (aka Personal Planned Parenthood Police force) fell into line promising more investigation. But let's hope PP has the last word on this one.

The fake IDs used by Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt, images of which were included as exhibits in court documents, resemble California-issued licenses. Mr. Daleiden went by Robert Sarkis on his license, and Ms. Merritt used the name Susan Sarah Tennenbaum. Warrants were issued for each defendant with a bond amount of $10,000.

“We know that they used fake IDs that had their real photographs but fake names and fake addresses purported to be issued by the State of California,” said Josh Schaffer, a Houston lawyer who represents Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in the Harris County criminal investigation. Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt presented those IDs to security at the Planned Planned office to gain entry to the building. “They never denied that they presented a fake ID,” Mr. Schaffer said.

“These people broke the law to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood in order to advance their extreme anti-abortion political agenda,” Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said Monday. “As the dust settles and the truth comes out, it’s become totally clear that the only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the criminals behind this fraud, and we’re glad they’re being held accountable.”

Top-two in the news: a ballot initiative and Palin's endorsement of Trump as evidence for the harmful effects of lead in drinking water

My RSS feed overfloweth

Scriber is just beginning to get caught up after a week's vacation. Zip-lining in Maui seems far less dangerous than landing in Arizona politics!

Here is a trio of posts from Blog for Arizona, the first two being left over from Monday.

Palin endorses Trump: she must be drinking Flint's water

Cartoons from AZBlueMeanie target Failin' Palin, Trump, and the Snyder administration's response to Flint's water tragedy.

The week ahead in the AZ Idioture: the good, bad, and ugly

Craig McDermott has the weekly report on the Phouls in Phoenix.

We’ve reached the part of the legislative season when a lot of “bad” bills will be quietly moving forward. This may be the best time to stop, or at least weaken, them. The lack of attention paid to them now that allows them to move without much opposition also allows changes to them before the R base can be rallied around those bad bills.

The Dark Side of the top-two initiative

Donna Gratehouse reports on who is really behind the top-two initiative - and they are not from Arizona.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

It's a jungle out there - or will be if the top-two primary measure wins

Some things in politics just baffle the hell out of me. One of them is the so-called Open and Honest Coalition. Terry Goddard has hitched up his campaign against dark money with the group re-running the "jungle" or "top two" primary measure. I do not understand it. The top-two was a bad idea the last time voters turned it down, and it still is a bad idea. AZBlueMeanie and commenters on his post have some reasons why we should be campaigning against the top-two proposal this year.

AZBlueMeanie lays out the issue.

Former Phoenix Mayor and malcontent Paul Johnson, and the “shadow governor of Arizona” under Jan Brewer, corporate lobbyist and political consultant Chuck Coughlin from High Ground Public Affairs, have filed their deceptively named Open and Honest Elections ballot measure, aka the Top Two Primary (or Jungle Primary).

Former Phoenix Mayor and Attorney General Terry Goddard has teamed up with this oddball pair to pursue his Open and Honest Disclosure ballot measure for “dark money,” because he lacks the confidence in his ability to raise enough money on his own to support his ballot measure.

This “brain trust” are calling themselves the Open And Honest Coalition, which is funny because the bulk of the funding will come from Open Primaries, a national organization that promotes open primaries, which does not disclose its contributors (because Arizona law does not require it) ...

TS comments:

So let me get this straight — there are 2 different ballot measures, one called “Open and Honest Elections” and the other titled “Open and Honest Disclosure” and both of these will be circulated by the same people — aka people who say ‘just sign both of them, thanks’ — and you want people to sign the second one but not the first? I will remember the difference but most people won’t. Basically what this dark money group is doing is it is depending on Terry Goddard’s dark money measure to get its top two measure on the ballot and then relying on the same deception to get it passed by the voters. I think it is best if both fail, then come back with a real anti-dark money measure.

Donna Gratehouse comments:

I can’t speak to what Republicans will do if this passes but Democrats, if they want ensure that their candidates advance to the general election ballot in many races, will be forced to discourage multiple candidates from running in primaries and anoint “official” Dems in the event of sham candidates being recruited to dilute the vote. Democrats may go to actual nominating conventions at the state committee where, oh irony, the “party bosses” and not voters will be selecting candidates.

AZBlueMeanie ends by issuing a call to arms.

So here is what I am asking from each and every district organization, county party organization, and state party organization for both Democrats and Republicans: adopt a resolution opposing the deceptively named Open and Honest Elections ballot measure, aka the Top Two Primary (or Jungle Primary), and instruct your precinct committee persons that they are not to walk petitions or to gather signatures for it, that your organization will not make its resources available to the Open And Honest Coalition, and to educate and inform the public that they should not sign the petition for this deceptive ballot measure to counter the media propaganda from The Arizona Republican. This is war! The easiest way to defeat this damn fool idea is if it does not garner enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot in 2016.

So, PCDP, LD2 and DCSRA? Will you step up?

Another view: The case for Prop 123

My slogan "1,2,3,Tax Breaks for Me" was aimed at stingy legislators and a conniving Governor. Between the two, I believe, the intent is to spend the state's general fund on more tax breaks that should have been spent on public education. The dodge built into the deal raids the state land trust which provides funds for education in the future in order to provide the flexibility to execute the tax breaks. So I remain convinced that 123 is a very bad deal.

However, there is another side to this. The case for Prop 123 emphasizes the financial starvation diet the legislature has inflicted upon public education for years with result that funding of Arizona schools puts the state at 49th in the nation. Those advocating passage of 123 sincerely believe that this is the best deal possible and that it is a first step toward bending the curve on education funding. To be fair, I am referencing a cross-post by Linda Lyon appearing at Blog for Arizona this morning. She provides a graphic that has the arguments for voting "yes" on Prop 123.

But it remains Ducey's Choice. My view is no matter how you vote, and no matter how Prop 123 fares, our schools will get shorted sometime - either now or in the future. And the choice was not necessary given the state's surplus revenue.

Friday, January 22, 2016

StumpGate UpDate: Is Bob Stump vindicated?

He thinks so. Remember Stump is the guy at the AZ Corporation Commission who sent all those text messages to folks involved not only with the election of Commissioners in 2014 but also to folks at APS, the public utility regulated by ACC. Here is the list and other snippets from Laurie Roberts at azcentral.com.

According to a log of Stump’s text messages, obtained via public records request by Checks and Balances, Stump sent 56 text messages to Barbara Lockwood, the general manager for regulatory policy at APS, between June and September 2014. He sent another 46 to Scot Mussi, head of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, and 180 to Forese and Little.

So, given that evidence of (at the leaset) impropriety, why is Stump smiling?

Retired Judge David Cole – asked by a sitting judge to cull through the texts as part of Checks and Balances’ lawsuit to obtain them -- has determined that none of the tens of thousands of Stump’s texts, sent from July 2013 to March 2015, are public record.

Not a single one.

Cole didn’t elaborate on why the public isn’t allowed to see so much as a single message sent on Stump’s state-issued phone. I can only conclude that he decided that they aren’t public business, subject to the state’s Public Records Law.

Which leads to me wonder two things:

Why are we paying for this guy’s personal cell phone if he isn’t using it to conduct state business?

And perhaps the most important question of all, why is a guy who sets the size of our monthly utility bills – one who has a big role in determining the size of that utility’s profits -- sending what must be personal messages to a top executive with that utility?

The texts that Stump sent are just half the story. To get the full picture, absent access to the content of the messages, we need to know what was sent by the recipients of Stump's messages - when and to whom. That was never in the cards nor even suggested as far as I know. But now that matter seems moot give Judge Cole's incomprehensible ruling.

BTW: my guess is that Laurie Roberts would answer the headline question in the negative.

Welcome to the fourth branch of Arizona government known henceforth as the Arizona Corruption Commission.

Governor Grifter's ice cream machine

The corporate tax breaks are starting to kick in and the state of Arizona is teetering on a financial abyss. Governor Ducey's Grifter's education deal (1,2,3,Tax Breaks for Me) offers an illusory fix playing off short-term gains for education against the long term reduction in education's purchasing power. At the same time, he promises tax cuts but the cuts are likely to shift the tax burden from businesses to the poor. The ice cream will melt sooner than later in Arizona's fiscal furnace.

Christopher Saunders (a resident of Tucson), writing in the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) has a perfect analogy to Prop 123 along the lines that the GOP so likes. Would your family finances survive a Prop 123?

When you sell your car, you get a fistful of cash. But you know what? You also don’t have a car anymore. If you use that cash to buy a new car, great. You can still go to work. You can still drive your kids to piano lessons. If you use that cash to build a pool, not so great. You can afford the construction costs, but what about the filters and chemicals that keep the water safe for your kids? Over time, the infusion of cash you got from selling your car dwindles. Eventually, it disappears entirely.

The governor and other Prop. 123 supporters want to sell public land. With the cash, they want to raise salaries, buy books, paint classrooms. What they don’t want to do is think about how they will keep paying teachers once the profits from the land sales have dried up. This constitutional amendment offers a temporary fix for a deeply entrenched failure of public policy. Our students deserve better.

Prop. 123 represents a key piece of Governor Ducey’s strategy to bolster his reputation as a fiscal conservative. His political narrative simultaneously embraces tax cuts and spending increases. Of course, he’s literally selling the land from under our feet, but he hopes we won’t notice.

To complete the deception, Governor Ducey offers the golden calf of fiscal conservatism: the elimination of the income tax. “Go forth, incrementally richer taxpayer,” he whispers in our ears, “Spend to your heart’s content! (Or, rather, up to $545, the amount the average Arizona taxpayer will save if the income tax is eliminated). Go ahead, buy a set of used golf clubs from a second-hand store in the sketchy part of town. You deserve it!”

Saunders may be optimistic. Over at Blog for Arizona, AZBlueMeanie offers a related take on Prop 123 and explains why the collapse of the grand deal ("1,2,3,Tax Breaks for Me") is likely to occur sooner than the 10-year expiration.

I keep being told by advocates of Prop. 123 that we have to vote for it because it is the only way to get education funding in the classrooms immediately. They are trying to sell it on short-term gains while ignoring the long-term consequences of Prop. 123, one of which is the “triggers” that would allow our lawless Tea-Publican legislature to renege on the inflation adjustment funding in the event of an economic downturn, or if state funding for education reaches 49% of the general revenue budget. That makes the promise of Prop. 123 an illusory promise.

Is anyone paying attention to what is going in the global economy right now? A recession is almost certainly on the horizon in the near future. Is the stock market telling us we’re headed for a recession?; Are We Headed For Another Recession? | FiveThirtyEight.

And with the structural revenue deficit built into Arizona’s budget by more than 20 years of unrelenting GOP tax cuts — which become “permanent” because they cannot be reversed under the current partisan makeup of the legislature and Prop. 108, the “Two-Thirds for Taxes” Amendment (1992) — there will be more GOP budget cuts to balance the budget as tax revenues decline, and education funding will soon enough reach that 49% trigger in Prop. 123, cutting off any more funding well before it is set to expire in 2026.

Also at Blog for Arizona, Linda Lyon explains why Governor Grifter's promise to cut taxes is a con. The problem is that we are getting taxed in many other ways. The income tax cut might benefit businesses but will certainly cause a shifting of revenues to things like the regressive sales tax.

Governor Ducey is intent on eliminating income tax in Arizona. Why might you ask? Because, for this Governor and others like him, it is ALL about business. And although corporate tax breaks are good for large business, 97% of the employers in Arizona are small businesses like S-corporations, LLCs and partnerships. These businesses amount to over 40% of the private workforce and are currently taxed by the state via income tax. I’m not sure whether ASU’s Center for the Study of Economic Liberty 2015 policy report by Stephen Slivinski is the “policy roadmap to elimination of the Arizona income tax” as it claims, or, if it was written to support Governor Ducey’s tax reduction plan. At any rate, Slivinski concludes in the report that: “The best hope Arizona policymakers have to eliminate the income tax is to phase it out over a number of years while maintaining budget balance.” He also makes the point that now that the state is on “surer fiscal footing”; it is time for Arizona policymakers “to look at important and necessary reforms over the next couple of years.” Waiting longer he claims, “may result in losing a golden opportunity.” Sounds like a Ducey talking point commercial to me.

Arizona already has though, the 13th-lowest individual income tax and the 10th-lowest combined state and local income tax in the Nation. Additionally, according to an article in Business Insider in August 2014, Arizona’s economy was ranked the 4th fastest growing in the US after Colorado, California and Texas. Of course, we also have the 4th highest poverty rate in the US with one in five Arizonans living in poverty. Obviously, there are winners and losers in Arizona’s current economy and Governor Ducey’s insistence on eliminating the state income tax and shifting state revenue collection to increased sales tax will do nothing to help those who most need it. Although sales tax is said to be a less volatile form of revenue than income tax, it also is the most regressive, hitting the poorest the hardest.

Of course, income and sales taxes are just two ways a state can tax its residents, there are a multitude of others. ...

Check Linda's post for the others.

In the long run, cutting revenues will be a disaster for education in Arizona - just as it has been in Kansas. But Governor Grifter's ice cream truck will be out of town long before the ice cream he is selling melts.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Who will play opposite Tina Fey ...

... in the tween romance flick Sarah Stumps for Trump?

Yep. The New York Times reports that Sarah Palin endorsed Trump. You might think an endorsement from the shallow nitwit who lost her bid for Vice POTUS would be a boat anchor to be avoided at all costs by a GOP candidate. But Palin and Trump are BFF, at least for the political moment called Iowa. Here are a couple of reasons why Donald loves Sarah.

As Mrs. Palin announced her backing, Mr. Trump stood wearing a satisfied smile as she scolded mainstream Republicans as sellouts and praised how Mr. Trump had shaken up the party. “He’s been going rogue left and right,” Mrs. Palin said of Mr. Trump, using one of her signature phrases. “That’s why he’s doing so well. He’s been able to tear the veil off this idea of the system.”

Over the years Palin has actually cultivated a number of relationships in Iowa,” said Craig Robinson, the former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa and publisher of the website The Iowa Republican. “There are the Tea Party activists who still think she’s great and a breath of fresh air, but she also did a good job of courting Republican donors in the state,” he added.

Other conservatives said that Mrs. Palin serves as a particularly effective shield against Mr. Cruz, who has assiduously courted Iowa’s evangelical voters.

“Palin’s brand among evangelicals is as gold as the faucets in Trump Tower,” said Ralph Reed, the chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

From the standpoint of columnists, bloggers, and cartoonists, life could be good.

Mrs. Palin could amplify the news media-circus aspects of Mr. Trump’s candidacy: She too is a reality television star accustomed to playing to the cameras and often accused of emphasizing flash over substance.

Try flash with no substance. Fitz should have fun with this one.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Governor Grifter

grifter: "A practitioner of confidence tricks." (Wikipedia) "A grifter is someone who swindles you through deception or fraud. Synonyms include fraudster, con artist, cheater, confidence man, scammer, hustler, swindler, etc." (Urban Dictionary)

Maria Konnikova's new book was just released this month: The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every Time . I just started reading it so a more detailed review and more on possible (probable?) applications to the domain of politics will have to wait for a bit. But in the meantime ...

Grifters, aka con artists, get their cons to work by playing to what we want to believe, by preying on our deep desire to trust others. We want to believe that our leaders are doing what's best for us. We want to trust those we elect. And that makes us vulnerable to political cons. Trust me and you will be well is a standard message.

Grifters themselves tend to operate outside the constraints imposed by those common beliefs and desires. They tend to be psychopathic (lacking in empathy), narcissistic (an inflated view of one's self), and Machiavellian (adept at manipulating others).

The target of this (and subsequent posts on this matter) is the Governor's budget. There is no empathy there but there is a lot of because-I-can and considerable manipulation (consider the education "deal" ). My recent posts on how this travesty benefits few but harms many are here and here. Two excellent critiques appeared today in Blog for Arizona by AZBlueMeanie and Linda Lyon. (Track Linda at restorereason.com for more.)

My working hypothesis is that the Governor's budget is a con being run against the Arizona voters, the marks, by the Governor and his collaborators in the state legislature. The cited blogs expose the disconnect between what the Governor says and what the budget actually does.

I'll have a lot more on this after I finish Konnikova's book. Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Republican debate: When Joy is gone, Fear and Anger take the stage

David Fitzsimmons' editorial in the Daily Star analogizes the Republican rat pack to Pixar characters.

Ducey's budget benefits few, harms many

Howard Fischer, in this morning's Daily Star reports on Ducey's budget that was released Friday: "Tight spending throughout Ducey's state budget plan." For example:

Gov. Doug Ducey proposes to restore less than 10 percent of what was cut last year from state universities, give the Department of Child Safety just two-thirds of what it requested, but add another 2,000 beds to house inmates.

But why so tight given the positive revenue picture?

What makes this year’s lean budget proposal noteworthy is that the state actually ended the last fiscal year not in the deficit but with an extra $312 million in the bank.

And revenues this budget year already are running $200 million above estimates.

Remember the promised tax cuts? They're on the way.

Ducey wants to proceed cautiously, noting the state has effectively been living off of borrowed money for the last few years, using accounting gimmicks to achieve a balanced budget as required by the constitution, said press aide Daniel Scarpinato.

But Scarpinato said while Ducey wants to proceed with caution the governor will fulfill his pledge of proposing a tax cut. He said, though, the details of how much — and who benefits — are being worked out with House and Senate Republican leadership.

But it's OK, see? Tax cuts are not new spending. Tax cuts are investments in the new AZ economy. Only GOPlins could believe that one. As Pogo might put it: we have seen Kansas and they is us.

See the next post on Ducey's fogged up vision of Arizona's future.

Ducey's vision for growing Arizona's economy: Uber alles?

Blake Morlock at Tucson Sentinel pokes some big holes in Ducey's plan for AZ. Does Dicey want investment in bio tech? Nope. In joining the knowledge economy? Nope. In renewable energy? Nope. In fixing our infrastructure? Nope. In our K-21 education? Nope (and Prop 123 sucks).

So what does he want us to do? Join the "sharing economy." An Uber or an AirBnB in every pot. (Don't get me wrong - I am a fan of Uber. But as a state policy, an economic end game? Read on.)

... this is what you get when you do what Arizona has done for 25 years and reach the end of the cul de sac. The state has the most limited food stamp program in America, the most restrictive welfare program in America, is the only state without an federal SCHIP program for kids' health care and we rank 49th in K-12 spending.

Morlock explains with the headline: "Ducey's SoS: Sharing in no way means caring. Gov's vision for Arizona's economy is downright Hobbesian, brutish and hustling."

Here is just one example illustrating how Ducey may not have any economic depth to his vision.

Here's a big problem for Arizona and the sharing economy: It requires that benefits like health care be regulation and provided by the state.

See, when workers in the sharing economy don't get benefits like health care, they need to have it provided for them by the only other game in town. The government.

Don't believe me? There's this guy Travis Kalanick who argues the same thing. He founded a little company called "Uber." This is what he said about Obamacare as a lynchpin of Uber's success:

“It’s huge," he said, according to BuzzFeed. “The democratization of those types of benefits allow people to have more flexible ways to make a living. They don’t have to be working for The Man.”

Yet working for The Man is actually how the bulk of Americans still make a living and raise families. This may not be the case in Haiti, but here in the U.S., we're still what they call "an advanced civilization." Together advanced civilizations make investments in institutions that allow the broader economy to grow.

But Il Duce does not want "investments in institutions that allow the broader economy to grow." I conclude, therefore, that Duce does not qualify as a member of any advanced civilization.

Morlock caps it.

... Ducey is looking at a state that has one of the lowest tax burdens in the country and promising to cut taxes further every year. From his speech: "Together, we will lower taxes this year. Next year. And the year after."

This means — eventually, I'll do my piece on the Laffer Curve later — collapsing revenues cause budget crises that squeeze state expenditures down to levels they do not recover from just so politicians can say, "We cut taxes."

In the absence of institutions like health care and public education, Arizona isn't going to be able to cash in on the Knowledge Economy — but Ducey wants us to swallow its backwash as the primary staple of our diet.

But it's all good. I heard you can do really well in the sharing economy without burdensome regulation. Why just the other day, I heard about this Nigerian prince who wants to share my bank account and he'll give me....

Consider alternative expansions of the acronym "SoS." State of the State, sure. Secretary of State, OK. But in my junior high school cafeteria we had another version that applied to a particularly unappetizing dish. That's what Ducey dished up to Arizonans on Monday.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Education is an expense, not an investment ...

... only in Arizona.

General Electric has relocated to Boston. Why? Perhaps a more favorable tax environment. But the company's other reasons are telling. Here's the story from Laurie Roberts at azcentral.com.

“We want to be at the center of an ecosystem that shares our aspirations,” the company said, in a prepared statement. “Greater Boston is home to 55 colleges and universities. Massachusetts spends more on research & development than any other region in the world, and Boston attracts a diverse, technologically-fluent workforce focused on solving challenges for the world. We are excited to bring our headquarters to this dynamic and creative city.”

So, to recap. The things that most attracted this $130 billion company were a great education system and the resulting large pool of workers who could fill high-tech jobs.

Why could Arizona not compete in this game?

Meanwhile, Arizona’s universities have endured the deepest cuts in the nation since the Great Recession, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Last year alone, the Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey cut $99 million from universities – a 13 percent cut in state funding. This, on top of $400 million in previous recession-era cuts.

State support for universities has dropped from $1.1 billion in 2008 to $550 million this year -- from $9,439 per student in 2008 to $4,196 per student this year.

And that understates the attitudinal problem afflicting Gov. Ducey and the GOP-dominated legislature. Recall the underfunding of K-12 and the cuts to JTED. Roberts concludes:

In Arizona, education is treated an expense. In Massachusetts, it’s an investment.

h/t Demion Clinco via Facebook

"Vote No on Prop 123" campaign cranks up

Prop 123 is the Devil's Deal that Dicey Ducey and his minions in the Idioture handed to education. I've characterized this Ducey's Choice as Sophie's Choice redux.

If you vote "yes" you are taking the deal in hopes of getting much needed aid to education in the near term. But your "yes" vote is in favor of taking money from the (future) state land trust to fund that aid. Your "yes" vote also is in favor of the triggers that let the legislature renege on the deal.

On the other hand, if you vote "no" you are in favor of preserving the principal in the land trust for education-future and are against those triggers. But then your vote, should it prevail, denies the needed funds to education-present. Thus well meaning supporters of public education will end up splitting their votes on this deal.

The campaign FOR Prop 123 expects to raise 3-4 million dollars to persuade voters to approve a constitutional change that will allow the raid on the land trust. The list of donations already in hand suggests the real game. The high rollers in the business community stand to benefit from Ducey's promise to keep cutting income taxes every year. Those cuts will be funded by the raid on the land trust thus avoiding funding education from the cash now on hand. Thus education is funding Ducey's tax breaks. Hence my slogan: 1,2,3,Tax Breaks For Me.

The campaign AGAINST Prop 123 is just now cranking up according to AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona. "This is going to be a grassroots effort of individuals because businesses care more about receiving even more corporate welfare tax cuts than the education of Arizona’s children." The campaign has a web site and the word is that Arizona State Treasurer Jeff DeWit is on board.

The comments on the Blue Meanie's post show how Ducey's Choice will split the vote on Prop 123.

Little Donny in math class

If you want to know the man, understand the child. Here's a great piece of humor in the New Yorker on how Donald's behavior in math class predicts Trump's behavior on the campaign trail. This is a must read - a real hoot!

Knowing what isn't so rebuttal: Obamacare is NOT a job killer

The GOPropagandists like to push the notion that Obamacare is a job killer. The problem with that is that it just ain't so. Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) features the relevant data debunking what the GOP knows..

... Forbes’ Dan Diamond made a great observation [about] private-sector employment in the United States over the last eight years.

Benen has a simple but compelling chart contrasting employment in the Bush and Obama years.

As Diamond added last week, “Obamacare was signed into law in March 2010. The private sector hasn’t lost jobs since.”

However, that does not stop the right-wing kooks from displaying their pathological devotion to misinformation.

Marco Rubio recently claimed, “[W]e have a crazy health care law that discourages companies from hiring people.” By any reality-based metric, the senator has no idea what he’s talking about.

OK, hold on. Perhaps we are talking apples and oranges. What about the issue of the nature of the jobs - full vs. part time?

None other than the Wall Street Journal has the definitive answer. As Benen observes, one of the WSJ charts shows that part-time jobs were basically flat over the time since ACA while full-time jobs showed a steady increase.

Of course none of this will stop Rubio and the retched rest from their regurgitation of wrong-speak.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

How to get the inside scoop on the Phouls in Phoenix (aka the AZ State Legislature)

A couple of years ago I defined "phoul" as a Ghoulish Fool or a Foolish Ghoul. Analogous to the dementers in the Harry Potter series, the Phouls in Phoenix come out in the dead of night to feast on the public goods.

Seriously, if you want to get a glimpse of what goes on in the Arizona Legislature, check out AZ State Sen. Steve Farley's Farley Reports here. You can also sign up for his email news letter as his reports are posted.

State Sen. John Kavanagh's bill solves no problem, violates God-given rights of guns

That's right. Kavanagh is at it again with an incredibly stupid bill (SB 1054) banning taking of pictures within 20 feet of law enforcement activity. Here are two responses from the readers of the Daily Star.

Bill solves problem that doesn’t exist

“Stop him before he shoots! Not the guy with the gun. The one with the camera.” Sen. John Kavanagh, in making it a crime to take a picture within 20 feet of “law enforcement activity,” is solving a problem that does not exist. I have never read of a police complaint about any citizen “distracting” an officer doing his legitimate duty.

Who would interfere with a reasonable and non-confrontational arrest? Who would tape measure the distance? Who, in a dangerous situation, would put himself in harm’s way to take a picture if something outlandish weren’t happening?

Sen. Kavanagh, a former police officer, obviously only seeks to prevent incriminating action from being recorded. There is an easier solution. Stop excessive police actions.

Beth Isabelle

Proposed bill ignores rights of guns

Re: the Jan. 8 article “Bill would criminalize taping police activity within 20 feet.”

Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, would make it a crime to record any law enforcement activity from closer than 20 feet unless an officer says it’s OK. This excellent idea helps protect our rights, but it doesn’t go far enough. What about the rights of guns?

Doesn’t photographing a gun without its permission violate the gun’s privacy and impair its ability to do its job? Arizona guns have more legal rights than dogs do. They can go almost anywhere they want, with no license. They cannot be destroyed by a city or county government. Even so, they’re not fully protected.

The Supreme Court has said corporations are people. Isn’t it time to acknowledge what we all know to be true — that guns are people too? Arizona has been pussyfooting around this issue for far too long. Sen. Kavanagh, I implore you to add the two words “or gun” to SB 1054.

Michael Rule

Folks, this is just the beginning. The AZ State Idioture just convened this week. There is lots more to come.

Trump activates the monsters within

Leonard Pitts Jr. compares Trump to Hitler in the Daily Star's editorial this morning. The list is scary. But he concludes that what sustains Trump is what he arouses to some degree in all of us.

... ordinarily I loathe such comparisons. Yet I’m here to make one. Because, as more than one observer has noted, the parallels between the rise of Adolf Hitler and that of Donald Trump have become too neon to ignore.

Here is the short version of Pitts' comparisons.

  • violence to silence hecklers, dissenters and protesters
  • few real plans or strategies for confronting the nation’s challenges, giving voters instead the assurance that he, by force of personality alone, will defeat them.
  • a scapegoat for [the electorate's] fears and vulnerabilities. Hitler gave his people the Jews. Trump has given his the Muslims.
  • Trump proposes to register, surveil and restrict the scapegoat populace. .... “We’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago,” he has said.

Pitts recounts the protest of one person.

It is in that context that Rose Hamid stood up last week in South Carolina.

Hamid, a 56-year-old Muslim flight attendant attending a Trump rally in Rock Hill, came to her feet and stood silently as Trump equated refugees from Syria with ISIS terrorists. She was wearing a hijab and a blue T-shirt that said, “Salam, I come in peace.” Several others stood in solidarity.

This passive protest was enough of a provocation that the audience began chanting their leader’s name like a mantra — “Trump! Trump! Trump!” — and a police officer escorted Hamid out. She told CNN that while some Trump followers apologized to her, others pelted her with abuse.

“Get out!” one person shouted.

“You have a bomb?” another cried.

So why these reactions?

It all brings home something that has become glaringly obvious: While many of us have lamented Trump’s improbable rise to political prominence, the real problem is not him and never was. Rather, the problem is that thing deep down in some of us that responds to him, that small, primeval thing so filled with uncertainty, fear and fury that it will suspend both logic and compassion to worship a man whose very name has become a symbol of all that is hateful and violative of American ideals.

To read of how fascism stole over Germany is to repeatedly ask yourself how an enlightened nation could have fallen for such transparent garbage. Well, the answer is unfolding before us in real time and it ought to horrify good people into taking a stand.

Like Rose Hamid.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Obama's SOTU address shows he is no lame duck

Writing at The Nation, John Nichols hits the high points of Obama's State Of The Union address. Nichols' take on Obama's remaining year are particularly interesting.

[Obama articulated] a grand vision, which is worthy of pursuit.

The pursuit will not be easy, however.

This president must work with a Republican congressional opposition that has taken obstructionism to extremes. That opposition continues to seize on every opening to attack and ridicule Obama; on Tuesday, Republicans sought to exploit tensions following the brief detention by Iran of the crews of two small US Navy patrol boats that reportedly drifted into Iranian territorial waters.

The task will be made even more difficult if the president focuses his energies on advancing the fundamentally-flawed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Congressional Democrats overwhelmingly oppose the agreement, as do many Republicans. If Obama squanders his last year trying to cobble together a coalition of corporate Republicans and corporate Democrats to vote against the best interests of working Americans and the environment, he runs the risk of creating deeper divisions—not just between parties but within them—and he might still lose the TPP fight.

The better strategy is to focus on uniting the Democrats behind popular initiatives, such as a minimum-wage hike or initiatives to address the crushing burden of student-loan debt, and to take advantage of election-season jitters to convince vulnerable Republicans to do the right thing. The combination of a bully pulpit and an election year can be a powerful one for a savvy president, and Obama is savvy.

But if it is not possible to build coalitions to do the right thing, Obama has other tools. His increasing comfort with the use of executive orders is significant, as it allows Obama to make immediate and popular policy shifts that will be hard for a successor to undo. The president should be just as comfortable using his veto power. And he should employ every opportunity to make appointments and to fight for the approval of those appointments where it is required.

These are the tools available to any president. But they are only of value when a president is ready to use them, rather than to slip away into lame-duck status.

Obama’s final State of the Union address signaled a determination to use those tools. Progressive and responsible Americans should be excited by this prospect. Barack Obama says he wants to do great things in the final year of his presidency. That’s great news for everyone who recognizes that, while the 2016 presidential race may be exciting, the person best positioned to achieve progress in the country in 2016 is not a candidate. It is the sitting president, who in 2012 was reelected with a popular vote and Electoral College mandate to serve a full four-year term. A quarter of that second term remains, and Obama has indicated that he is ready to make something of it—in Washington and on the 2016 campaign trail—as a president who remains “optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

Ducey's state of the state address unpacked: Linda Lyon and Tim Steller expose the flaws

Linda Lyon, blogging at RestoreReason.com, has some incisive observations about Ducey's claims about, and plans for, education.

Governor Ducey ... made the prediction that: “In the years ahead, Arizona will be among the states investing the most new dollars in public education – all without raising taxes.” Just to be clear here, the Prop 123 monies aren’t “new monies”, they are monies that were already owed to our schools. Not sure the Governor sees it that way, but that is the truth. More funding, much more funding is needed and every bit will be welcome, but I just don’t see how we can make a dent in the need without raising taxes. I am positive we can’t do it by cutting taxes and giving our surplus away as corporate handouts. We just need to look at what Governor Brownback did to Kansas with his tax cuts. When he took the reins in Kansas, he dropped the top income-tax rate by 25%, lowered sales taxes and created a huge exemption for business owners filing taxes as individuals. He claimed it would spur investment, create jobs and bolster the state’s coffers through faster growth, sound familiar? Now, five years after doubling down, his state lags in job creation, tax revenue is far short of expectations and bond and credit ratings have been downgraded. Rating agencies claimed the tax breaks were unsustainable and that the promised economic growth would be elusive. It is with great hubris this lesson would be ignored.

It sure seems that the lesson of how Kansas greenbacks were burned by Brownback is being ignored daily by the GOPlins. Ducey wants the income tax zeroed with the hope that we will suddenly suck all the businesses from California and all will be well. There's no evidence for that and plenty of evidence, as in Kansas, against it.

In closing, Lyon sends a message to Ducey about the role of philanthropic organizations in education.

The Governor also gave note to the fact that “The state isn’t the only player in public education. Every day, philanthropic foundations in Arizona are investing in our schools. They are developing new school leaders, expanding educational opportunities for low-income children and funding the arts and sciences. I intend to partner with the heads of these foundations to provide an even greater opportunity and impact in our schools.” Good for you Governor! Just don’t forget that it isn’t the job of these philanthropic foundations to provide for public education. That, as outlined in the Arizona Constitution, is the primary job of the Legislature and you! Irrespective of how much you promote the growth of for-profit charter schools and the expansion of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (essentially vouchers), the responsibility for the public education of Arizona’s one million plus students is still ultimately rests on your shoulders. I hear you saying many of the right things, I just hope your intent is pure and your commitment is real. Our students are not a talking point, they are young people who deserve every opportunity to succeed and reach their full potential. Not only for themselves, but for the future of our State and our Nation.

Pardon me for my pessimism, but Ducey's rationale for tax breaks is totally at odds with reality (see the Kansas scenario above). Budgeting is a zero sum game. If you spend your revenue on tax breaks, you cannot also spend it on public services, education being just one.

But Dicey has a plan. On his watch Arizona will eclipse California as the go-to state. California is in such big trouble, you see, that an Arizona even without the ability to provide infrastructure will look so good by comparison that businesses large and small will flock to the state. There's just one problem with that. It is hogwash.

Tim Steller in his column exposes the shoddy thinking and falsehoods on which Dicey has based his "plan." Here are snippets.

"Together, we will lower taxes this year, next year and the year after,” [Ducey] said in the speech.

My question is — why, when we can’t pay for the state’s fundamental functions already?

Leaving aside sales tax rates, Arizona is a low-tax state. This year, the state is projected to spend less as a portion of residents’ income than it has in at least three decades. Yet our needs continue to grow with population.

So high taxes is not a justification for cutting taxes when the state has pressing needs, as Tim explains about Child Protective Services. (See his column for more on that sad story.)

I got the chance to ask Ducey one question and a follow-up after the Tucson event, and I decided to focus on taxes, asking how he expects to solve Arizona’s problems if he and the Legislature keep reducing revenue through tax cuts. Here’s what he said:

We added 56,000 new jobs last year. We added 100,000 new citizens. We’re growing our state and we’re growing our economy. We’re going to be competitive against states like California and Illinois that are going the wrong direction, and states like Texas are improving their quality of life and their environment for businesses. We want to be at the table when these businesses are making decisions about where they’re going to locate, and Arizona is going to be competitive in those decisions.

Not hearing an answer to my question, I asked if he thought reducing tax rates would increase tax revenue to the state — a common supply-side conception that only works in high-tax situations. Ducey’s response:

I think it’s part of the entire package. It’s, what’s the tax burden? What’s the regulatory environment? Are you business-friendly? Is there political consistency? Then, what’s the quality of life? Arizona is a great state. We have a great product and package to sell. And we want to be competitive.

Those answers left me with the feeling that Ducey’s plan is to cut taxes, recruit businesses and let the rest figure itself out. But neglected and abused kids, to cite the DCS example, don’t need a job — they need good protection and services paid for by taxpayers. We also need money to repair roads and bridges.

And we need to properly fund public-education-present without robbing public-education-future. But to fund these things we need more revenue not less. But not according to Ducey.

Of course, tax increases are not in the cards. That would make us too much like Ducey’s cherished rival, California. The governor made seven references to California in his state-of-the state speech, arguing that California’s burdensome bureaucracy will benefit Arizona as businesses there move here.

Ducey’s tone was a bit sophomoric, especially for the governor of a state that is arguably doing worse economically than California. He said, “I’d be remiss if I didn’t stop to thank my partner in growing Arizona’s economy — California Gov. Jerry Brown.”

So what about California? What's going in our neighboring state that is so awful that it will motivate an exodus of businesses to Arizona? Steller did the fact-checking.

[California's] economy is growing faster than Arizona’s, it has lower unemployment than Arizona and a lower poverty rate.

“California has been throughout this expansion one of the leaders in the rate of job growth and is now at record employment levels,” UCLA economist Jerry Nickelsburg told me. “All the major counties are at record employment levels right now.”

Employment in Silicon Valley’s Santa Clara County grew by 7 percent last year, said Nickelsburg, who is senior economist at UCLA Anderson Forecast.

Clearly, there is something more to building an attractive state than low taxes and minimal regulations.

Steller sums it up this way: "...it wasn’t clear why the rest of us should abhor California or how that solves our problems and creates the state we want."

Ducey's economic vision is worse than sophomoric. It's not only hog wash. It's piling the hog product higher and deeper. The stench overwhelms.

Here's the link to Ducey's state-of-the-state address.