Monday, February 29, 2016

The color of accountability


I wasn’t surprised by The Republic’s recent findings that during the 2015-16 school year, the vast majority of funding ($20.6 million) for vouchers was taken from public schools rated A or B, but only $6.3 million was taken from schools rated C or D. I’d previously seen a statistic that in 2012, about 92 percent of students taking advantage of the voucher (Empowerment Scholarship Account) program would have attended private schools anyway regardless of voucher availability. Let’s face it; this was never about helping the poor, disadvantaged minority child. The reality is that vouchers were never for poorer Arizonans who can’t cover the average private-school tuition costs of $10,421 when a voucher provides only $5,200.

And yet, the AZ Legislature is pushing two bills to fully open the floodgates on voucher availability, making every student in Arizona eligible for vouchers for homeschooling, tutoring, private school, or to save for college. This, despite the fact that there is little accountability in the program. Yes, recipients must provide quarterly reports of their spending, but DOE staffing for oversight is reportedly insufficient and the schooling options that vouchers pay for have no responsibility for reporting any kind of results. The taxpayer then, has no way to determine return on investment.

Here’s where I start to get confused. The GOP nay, Teapublican-led Arizona Legislature, loves to tout the need for accountability of taxpayer dollars. They are great however, at picking and choosing their targets for applying this accountability. [Please read on, this post isn’t really about vouchers.]

A time for choosing: to Trump or not to Trump

That is the "existential" choice facing Republican leaders, explains Brian Beutler at New Republic.

The recognition—dawning rapidly on a gainsaying political establishment—that Donald Trump is poised not just to win more delegates on Super Tuesday than other GOP candidates, but to completely dominate this week’s 13 nominating contests, has confronted movement conservatives and loyal Republicans with a time for choosing.

The forces propelling Trump toward victory are driving party actors toward one of two determinations: Either Trump is the future of a Republican Party that current Republicans can live with, or the Republican Party is unsupportable with Trump atop its ticket. The latter would invite the kind of massive political realignment that only occurs in this country once or twice a century.

The we can live with Trump alternative

On Friday, former presidential candidate Chris Christie—the governor of New Jersey, and recently the chairman of the Republican Governors Association—made his choice clear by endorsing Trump. Moments later, Maine Governor Paul LePage followed suit. On Saturday, former Arizona governor Jan Brewer joined those two, and on Sunday, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama made it a foursome.

The Never Trump alternative

The counterweight to these conformists is embodied by #NeverTrump—a trending social media topic popularized by conservative activist Erick Erickson, and adopted most notably by Marco Rubio—which serves as a calling card for conservatives who are refusing to support Trump in a general election. The implication (which Rubio has refused to spell out directly) is that he will refuse to endorse Trump should he win the GOP nomination.

What the split might do

If this represents an enduring schism—if the ranks of resolute anti-Trump conservatives grows to include influential Republicans who had previously pledged to support the winner of the primary unconditionally—the significance will be hard to overstate. By closing in on the nomination, Trump is pitting conservatives’ commitments to party and movement against one another. If most Republicans were to fall into line behind Trump, the Republican Party apparatus would reorient dramatically, but it would survive. If instead the party’s leaders abandon Trump after promising otherwise, they would turn millions of people against the GOP enduringly. The damage to the Republican Party as an institution would be profound, perhaps fatal.

And, as Trump has implied, if the Republicans do not "play fair" he will hurt them more than they hurt him. I guess that might mean a 3rd party run.

So, the Republican elite is in a real jam. Moreover, to turn on Trump would be to undermine the whole set of core beliefs that they have foisted upon their base.

... Trump has co-opted and amplified articles of conservative faith (that President Obama is a disaster, that America is weak) in ways that will make it extremely difficult for Republican leaders to disavow Trump without also disavowing the grievance and resentment, too.

Here are just a few instances.

It is untenable to attack Trump for advancing a ludicrously skeletal alternative to the Affordable Care Act, when the Republican Party has no alternative of its own, and Trump’s competitors offer little more clarity.

It is untenable to attack Trump for fiscal profligacy when nearly all conservative elites are aligned in consensus that the country urgently needs huge, regressive tax cuts, much more defense spending, and absolutely no immediate cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

It is untenable to attack Trump for promising to deport 11 million immigrants if you’ve built party politics on the impression that the country is being inundated by immigrants, invaders, ISIS infiltrators, and disease carriers.

And so on - read Beutler's article for more.

My guess? The split will be resolved in favor of Trump's nomination. My confidence? A wee bit over 50/50.

Explaining Sanders and Trump

Surprisingly, Sanders and Trump have many things in common (discounting ideological differences). Perhaps the most important is that they both touch a raw nerve in the electorate, namely that the American dream, that is the opportunity for upward mobility, is slipping away. Here is some of the essay in The Guardian by Michael Sandel, a political philosopher and professor at Harvard (see his Wiki entry here).

The unexpected resonance of the Sanders and Trump campaigns does not represent a decisive turning of American voters towards the left or towards the right. It represents a populist protest against a neoliberal economic order embraced by the establishment wings of both parties, which bestows lavish rewards upon those at the top and makes life precarious for everyone else.

The rise of Sanders and Trump is less about ideology than about anxiety that the American Dream is slipping away. This is what Sanders means when he says that the system is rigged against ordinary Americans. And this is what Trump means when he says that America doesn’t win any more. Both give expression to a widespread sense that Americans are losing control of the forces that govern their lives.

The American Dream has never been about reducing inequalities of income and wealth. It has been about enabling people to rise and giving one’s children the chance to rise even further. This is why Americans have traditionally worried less about inequality than Europeans do. We may have greater disparities of income and wealth than do the welfare states of Europe, we would tell ourselves, but here, we are not consigned to the class of our birth. Mobility, not equality, is the measure of our freedom. In recent decades, however, this comforting self-image has begun to ring hollow. The long-standing faith that those who “work hard and play by the rules” will get ahead no longer fits the lived experience of working-class and middle-class Americans. The growing inequality of recent decades has not been offset by opportunities to rise. To the contrary, it has brought a hardening of economic mobility.

The US has less mobility than most major European countries. Forty-two per cent of American men born in the bottom fifth of the income scale remain stuck there as adults (compared with 25% in Denmark and 30% in Britain). Only 8% of American men rise from the bottom fifth to the top. Studies of mobility from one generation to the next tell a similar story. Class mobility is greater in Denmark, Norway, Canada, Sweden, Germany and France than in the US. The American Dream is alive and well and living in Denmark.

If the promise of upward mobility is no longer a realistic way to contend with inequalities of income and wealth, Americans may need to reconsider the place of equality in the American Dream. Whether this populist moment will prompt such rethinking remains to be seen.

When upward mobility stops, you settle into a rigid caste system in which poor begets poor and their lot declines generationally, fueled by policies that reward those already at the top of the economic ladder. So you could think of Sanders and Trump as the vanguard of the pitchforks. The pitchforks are not inevitable but we need more equitable policies and the political will to implement them.

What President Trump would do to America

Trump will do nothing for America.

Michael Gerson in today's Daily Star explains how Trump's foreign policy as expressed in 140-word tweets marks Trump as "clueless."

Here are snippets.

It is difficult to discern a foreign policy in Trump’s oeuvre of rambling, extemporaneous speechmaking and Twitter pronouncements. He usually communicates without a hint of actual argument. But there is some consistency to his various statements.

Basically the theory seems to be that we should disparage our allies (Mexico, South Korea) and support our competitors and potential enemies (Putin). Gerson cites examples. For instance: "America should focus on killing terrorists as well as targeting their families for murder, apparently on the theory that war crimes are a demonstration of super-duper toughness."

As Trump’s political prospects have improved, we are required to give these foreign policy views more serious analysis, which is more than Trump himself has done. When pressed on such issues in debates and interviews, he is utterly incoherent. And it feels like we have, so far, explored only the fringes of his ignorance.

But it is the theory behind Trump’s threats that is particularly dangerous. He is not an isolationist, in the Rand Paul sense. He is more of a Jacksonian (in Walter Russell Mead’s typology) — preferring a strong America that is occasionally roused to kill its enemies but then returns home and avoids entangling international commitments.

... Trump would be a president who could not tell America’s enemies from its friends. He contemplates actions like weakening security assurances to South Korea that might invite war (recall the outcome in 1950 of Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s implication that South Korea was outside America’s “defensive perimeter”). Trump promises actions — like forcing the Mexico to fund the great wall of Trump — that are, in the formal language of international relations, loony, unhinged, bonkers. His move to impose massive tariffs against China would earn derisive laughter at the World Trade Organization. If he persisted, it might blow up the global trading order and dramatically increase tensions in Asia.

Trump’s version of American nationalism without reference to American principles is Putinism by another name. And it is one more way that Trump would sully the spirit of the nation.

Regarding the congressional response to a slow economy: What, Me Worry?

If the AZ Lege is not enough to drive you gibbering mad, try congressional inaction on the nation's crumbling infrastructure. Here are snippets from Karl Reiner's post at Blog for Arizona.

A fiscal boost comes with capital spending on new infrastructure and/or the maintenance of existing systems. The money spent on schools, roads, hospitals and water systems induces complementary spending in other sectors of theUncertainty economy. The potholed roads in American cities push up car-maintenance cost by $700 per vehicle. A third of America’s roads are in poor shape, one in nine of the nation’s bridges are no longer structurally sound. In 2010, the U.S. Senate blocked a proposal to establish a public infrastructure bank and a plan to spend $50 billion on improvements to roads, railways and airports. It was just part of the ongoing partisan squabbling that has slowed the recovery.

... The Federal Reserve has virtually nothing left in its arsenal of recession fighting and economy stimulating tools. If and when the next recession arrives, it will be up to the administration and the standstill Congress to come up with new programs. Based on the record of the recent past, the prospects are not very good for the United States.

See? I told you. Head for the toons.

The week ahead in the Arizona "Legislature"

Craig McDermott's listing of legislative [in]action won't drive you to drink but it might reinforce your need for some humor. See below.

Toons about the Loons

AZBlueMeanie's selection of toons will make you laugh in spite of your depression.

Here are two relevant to my analysis yesterday of the Republicans' feeble and belated attempts to derail Trump's campaign. Remember the 5 stages of grief model?

 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

2016 America is to 1929 Germany as Donald Trump is to ...

You do not have to complete the analogy. Just check out this voice from 1929 via Facebook.

"Inside the Republican Party’s Desperate Mission to Stop Donald Trump." When it fails, will they Jump for Trump?

Reported in the New York Times By ALEXANDER BURNS, MAGGIE HABERMAN and JONATHAN MARTIN FEB. 27, 201 -- and much more.

Some establishment Republicans have been scrambling for a way to prevent him from becoming the party’s presidential nominee.

Notice I did not say "if it fails." I said "when it fails." When it comes to Republicans, I confess to being a perpetual pessimist. But we shall carry on.

The scenario Karl Rove outlined was bleak.

Addressing a luncheon of Republican governors and donors in Washington on Feb. 19, he warned that Donald J. Trump’s increasingly likely nomination would be catastrophic, dooming the party in November. But Mr. Rove, the master strategist of George W. Bush’s campaigns, insisted it was not too late for them to stop Mr. Trump, according to three people present.

At a meeting of Republican governors the next morning, Paul R. LePage of Maine called for action. Seated at a long boardroom table at the Willard Hotel, he erupted in frustration over the state of the 2016 race, saying Mr. Trump’s nomination would deeply wound the Republican Party. Mr. LePage urged the governors to draft an open letter “to the people,” disavowing Mr. Trump and his divisive brand of politics.

Hold that thought - LePage disavowing Trump - and read on.

In public, there were calls for the party to unite behind a single candidate. In dozens of interviews, elected officials, political strategists and donors described a frantic, last-ditch campaign to block Mr. Trump — and the agonizing reasons that many of them have become convinced it will fail. Behind the scenes, a desperate mission to save the party sputtered and stalled at every turn.

Efforts to unite warring candidates behind one failed spectacularly: An overture from Senator Marco Rubio to Mr. Christie angered and insulted the governor. An unsubtle appeal from Mitt Romney to John Kasich, about the party’s need to consolidate behind one rival to Mr. Trump, fell on deaf ears.

At least two campaigns have drafted plans to overtake Mr. Trump in a brokered convention, and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has laid out a plan that would have lawmakers break with Mr. Trump explicitly in a general election.

Despite all the forces arrayed against Mr. Trump, the interviews show, the party has been gripped by a nearly incapacitating leadership vacuum and a paralytic sense of indecision and despair, as he has won smashing victories in South Carolina and Nevada. Donors have dreaded the consequences of clashing with Mr. Trump directly. Elected officials have balked at attacking him out of concern that they might unintentionally fuel his populist revolt. And Republicans have lacked someone from outside the presidential race who could help set the terms of debate from afar.

Republicans have ruefully acknowledged that they came to this dire pass in no small part because of their own passivity. There were ample opportunities to battle Mr. Trump earlier; more than one plan was drawn up only to be rejected. Rivals who attacked him early, like Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal, the former governors of Texas and Louisiana, received little backup and quickly faded.

Major donors apparently have no appetite for a Tussle with Trump.

Resistance to Mr. Trump still runs deep. The party’s biggest benefactors remain totally opposed to him. At a recent presentation hosted by the billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch, the country’s most prolific conservative donors, their political advisers characterized Mr. Trump’s record as utterly unacceptable, and highlighted his support for government-funded business subsidies and government-backed health care, according to people who attended.

But the Kochs, like Mr. Adelson, have shown no appetite to intervene directly in the primary with decisive force.

Some candidates and Senate Majority Leader McConnell are planning a fight at the Republican convention.

... Mr. Trump’s challengers are staking their hopes on a set of guerrilla tactics and long-shot possibilities, racing to line up mainstream voters and interest groups against his increasingly formidable campaign. Donors and elected leaders have begun to rouse themselves for the fight, but perhaps too late.

Two of Mr. Trump’s opponents [Rubio and Kasich] have openly acknowledged that they may have to wrest the Republican nomination from him in a deadlocked convention.

“There’s this desire, verging on panic, to consolidate the field,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former supporter of Mr. Bush. “But I don’t see any movement at all.”

In response, some Republican party leaders seem resigned to a triumphant Trump.

... already, a handful of senior party leaders have struck a conciliatory tone toward Mr. Trump. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House majority leader, said on television that he believed he could work with him as president. Many in the party acknowledged a growing mood of resignation.

Fred Malek, the finance chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said the party’s mainstream had simply run up against the limits of its influence.

“There’s no single leader and no single institution that can bring a diverse group called the Republican Party together, behind a single candidate,” Mr. Malek said. “It just doesn’t exist.”

On Friday, a few hours after Mr. Christie endorsed him, Mr. Trump collected support from a second governor, who in a radio interview said Mr. Trump could be “one of the greatest presidents.”

Remember the thought I asked you to hold?

That governor was Paul LePage.

So consolidating the remaining field of Republican candidates is not faring at all well. The remaining candidates are busily jockeying for position, offending each other, and defending themselves against Trump's attacks. The big money guys - that is, the guys with REALLY big bucks - do not appear willing to take on Trump. There are plans to broker the Republican convention but who knows how those might unravel if Trump keeps racking up more delegates. Yes, you could say that there is a sense of panic among Republicans emerging from this list of ongoing failures to derail Trump.

If they are so concerned, where is the opposition research on Donald Trump. I would expect a black book of Trumpisms and more in each Democratic candidates's campaign files. But if the Republicans are so worried where is their research? Paul Waldman (Washington Post/Plum Line) has a simple answer: none.

Sam Stein has the most amazing story of the day, on how nobody has bothered to do opposition research on Donald Trump yet:

Multiple Republican campaign sources and operatives have confided that none of the remaining candidates for president have completed a major anti-Trump opposition research effort. There are several such efforts being run by outside conservative organizations. But those efforts are still gathering intel on the businessman after having started late in the primary season, these sources told The Huffington Post. And they worry that it may come too late.

“It is one of the many ways we underestimated him, I suppose,” conceded one top Republican campaign official whose candidate has since exited the race.

No kidding. One does have to marvel at the implicit incompetence of the GOP's reaction to Trump.

The question of what Republicans will, or can, do about Trump was addressed by Rachel Maddow in her interview with the former Republican National Committee communications director, Doug Heye. He thinks it is past time for the Republicans to give Trump serious scrutiny, not just media attention. The question is whether the onslaught from Rubio and Cruz will be enough. Heye has authored an essay about why he, as a Republican operative, will not support Trump. Here are snippets with Heye's main points.

Credit Trump for this: when confronted with tough questions or bad poll numbers, he knows what to do: cynically create yet another outrage du jour taking the media’s focus away from Trump’s lack of knowledge or substance on the challenges facing America onto much more comfortable ground, the six-month running Mad Libs of calculated shocking comments – attacking minorities, a candidate’s face, a reporter’s disability or even bathroom breaks. As every Trump interview shows, the Emperor not only does not have any clothes; he does not have any answers.

Donald Trump as the Republican nominee would be catastrophic for Republican hopes to win the White House and maintain control of the Senate and would damage the party and the conservative cause for years to come. His having the legitimacy that comes with the nomination of a major political party would cause greater instability throughout the world at a time when the world looks to America for leadership that is serious and sober.

As a longtime conservative Republican campaign and Congressional aide, and former official of the Republican National Committee, not voting for the Republican nominee is an unimaginable scenario. But for the sake of my party and indeed, my country, while I will certainly vote for some Republican in November, if Trump is the nominee, I cannot vote for my party’s nominee.

Cynics like to say America gets the politicians it deserves. If Republicans nominate Trump, that cliché may actually be true.

As a loyal and proud conservative Republican, I cannot help make that happen by voting for a Trump-led ticket in 2016.

But hey! Heye is just one guy in the GOP. One big question is whether the establishment can recruit enough folks like Heye to rouse public opinion through investigative journalism and appeal to conservative principles and thereby take down Trump.

Consider the other difficulties, say, of convincing candidates to drop out and unite behind a single candidate in opposition to Trump. Consider the uncertainties of knocking Trump off at the convention. Consider what it would take to unite the Republican party behind Rubio who keeps finishing 3rd. Those are hard problems, so why do the establishment Republicans not take the easier path? They could just bend over, stick their heads in the sand, and present their hind quarters to The Donald.

Scriber's prediction: More and more GOWPers (Greedy Old White Politicians) will Jump for Trump. I even have a kind of model in mind, namely the "5 stages of grief". The Republican establishment has passed through denial, voiced its anger, took a shot at bargaining, and is now somewhere between depression and acceptance. The grief model is appropriate: the ascendancy of Donald Trump marks the death of the Republican party as we once knew it. All that might be left for the establishment Republicans is for them to accept their fate at the hands of their Trumpenstein creation.

Warren Buffett optimistic about America's economic future, concerned about income inequality

An occasional jolt of optimism in an election season is therapeutic.

NPR relays Warren Buffett's remarks to Berkshire Hathaway share holders.

If you have been watching the presidential debates, you may be very worried.

The other day, GOP candidate Ben Carson said the U.S. is "heading off the abyss of destruction." And on the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders said Americans "are worried to death about the future of their kids."

It's been that kind of political season. But on Saturday, billionaire Warren Buffett used his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway Inc. shareholders to say, in effect, relax.

The country may have challenges, but the doom-and-gloom predictions are "dead wrong," Buffett wrote.

There are some good reasons to listen to Buffett. One is the success of his ventures. (As opposed to, say, Trump's BS.)

That sort of optimism runs deep in the investor who has personally seen the country work its way through the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War and few other bumps along the way.

And through it all, he has made money. Lots of it. Forbes magazine ranks the legendary investor as the third-richest person in the world, worth roughly $73 billion.

His company, based in Omaha, Neb., owns scores of businesses involved in an array of sectors — including insurance, energy, railroads, newspapers, real estate, food and apparel.

After a half-century under his leadership, Berkshire reported a record annual profit of $24.08 billion, up 21 percent. In the fourth quarter, profit rose 32 percent to $5.48 billion, or $3,333 per Class A share.

Buffett's annual letter to Berkshire investors is so closely followed because he so often makes the right calls about the economy. And in this year's letter, he makes it clear that he considers the "negative drumbeat" about America to be very misleading.

"For 240 years it's been a terrible mistake to bet against America, and now is no time to start," he wrote. "America's golden goose of commerce and innovation will continue to lay more and larger eggs."

Buffett's optimism is qualified by an issue that takes center stage in this election year - economic inequality.

Despite his fundamental optimism, Buffett also acknowledged that income inequality is a profound problem rooted in rapid technological changes and globalization. The well educated and innovative tend to do well in this 21st century economy, while many workers get left behind, he suggests.

Although the "pie to be shared by the next generation will be far larger than today's," the political arguments over how it gets sliced up will "remain fiercely contentious," he warned.

He suggests the country weave more safety nets to help displaced workers.

"The price of achieving ever-increasing prosperity for the great majority of Americans should not be penury for the unfortunate," he wrote.

That sentiment is shared by our Democratic candidates for President. For the record:

Buffet is on the record supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton for president.

Attack of the voucher vultures

Editorial columnist and cartoonist for the Daily Star, David Fitzsimmons, has the inside scoop on a conversation between the Dark Lord Darth Ducey and his chief Orc-estrator, Master Kirk of the Adams Family.

The governor’s chief of staff, Kirk Adams, handed Doug Ducey the numbers. “Governor, I’m proud to say we have the worst-funded public education system in the United States. We’re behind Mississippi and Albania.” Adams beamed. “And wherever Borat was from.”

The governor was animated. “Really, Adams? That’s fantastic. The question is, can we top that? Be creative! Ask yourself, ‘Can we do worse?’”

“Well, we have an idea brewing in the Legislature. What would happen if we expanded our vouchers scheme statewide to include everyone? It’s a great public education killer.”

“How does it work?”

“We’re going to siphon off public school funds to subsidize private schools.”

[snip] Good read here! Ducey objects to "siphon."

Adams took a deep breath. “Al-right-y then. Our vouchers scheme will steal taxpayer dollars from public education’s pitiful coffers — giggle — and redistribute those monies as subsides for private and parochial schools! And we’re calling it the ‘Empowerment Scholarship Account.’”

Ducey laughed. “As long as this plan ‘empowers’ my private school backers I’m in! Nice work! Here’s an ice cream coupon, Adams. Try the Koch-o-nut flavored sherbet. ”

Adams pocketed the coupon.“We’re winning the fight, sir! I saw in the latest poll that 87 percent of Arizonans are getting sick of explaining the value of public education to Republicans. They’re desperate to accept Proposition 123. Throw a starving man a crumb and he’ll crawl to lick it off the sidewalk.”

AZBlueMeanie notes: "Sometimes political satire is far more effective than straight news, especially when it is grounded upon the truth. David Fitzsimmons’ column today at the Arizona Daily Star is a classic."

Right on! Read more of Fitz's account here. Check out the Blue Meanie's post for related toons from Fitz.

P. S.

Daily Star columnist Tim Steller searches for accountability in the voucher program ... and finds none. He concludes:

Accountability measures, it seems, are for the educational programs the Legislature doesn’t like, such as district schools. The programs lawmakers do like — such as vouchers — are presumed good.

Or, as Fitz put it:

Adams spoke calmly. “We don’t regulate private education, governor. Unlike our public schools, they’re completely unaccountable, unregulated and unchecked. There is no oversight. Home schoolers, private schools and parochial schools all operate in the dark. Remember, governor, we only use oversight and regulation to cripple public education.”

The buzzing sound you hear is Darth Ducey's red light saber as he slashes the K-12 budget.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Endorsements for President: Robert Reich endorses Bernie Sanders.

This is from an email message by Robert Reich (emphases in original).

I am endorsing Bernie Sanders for President of the United States.

He's leading a movement to reclaim America for the many, not the few. And such a political mobilization – a "political revolution," as he puts it -- is the only means by which we can get the nation back from the moneyed interests that now control so much of our economy and democracy.

This extraordinary concentration of income, wealth, and political power at the very top imperils all else -- our economy, our democracy, the revival of the American middle class, the prospects for the poor and for people of color, the necessity of slowing and reversing climate change, and a sensible foreign policy not influenced by the “military-industrial complex,” as President Dwight Eisenhower once called it.

It is the fundamental prerequisite: We have little hope of achieving positive change on any front unless the American people are once again in control.

I have the deepest respect and admiration for Hillary Clinton, and if she wins the Democratic primary I’ll work my heart out to help her become president. But I believe Bernie Sanders is the agent of change this nation so desperately needs.

That is exactly my position.

If instead you favor Hillary Clinton, you could rewrite this letter. If you do, I hope you would include the last paragraph quoted above. At the end of the day, regardless of who we Democrats prefer in the primaries, we need to come together to help elect a Democratic president in 2016. If we do not, we get a demagogue who would be happy to punch out protesters.

Endorsements for President: Chris Christy endorses Donald Trump.

The New York Times reports:

Updated, 11:37 p.m. | In a rollicking day of spectacle, spite and scorn, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey declared his allegiance to Donald J. Trump and war on Marco Rubio, describing the senator on Friday as desperate and unfit for the presidency.

The endorsement interrupted a 48-hour assault from an emboldened Mr. Rubio, who is adopting many of the real estate mogul’s crude tactics and colorful insults as he urgently tries to arrest Mr. Trump’s march to the Republican nomination.

In the span of a few hours across Texas, Mr. Rubio suggested that Mr. Trump had urinated in his trousers and used illegal immigrants to tap out his unceasing Twitter messages. Mr. Trump countered by suggesting that Mr. Rubio’s excessive perspiration had no place in the White House and brandishing a water bottle to mock the senator’s chronic thirst.

Waving the bottle across a stage at a Texas rally, pouring half its contents onto the floor and then taking giant gulps from it, Mr. Trump ridiculed his younger rival with exaggerated facial gestures. “It’s Rubio!” he shouted to loud applause and cheers.

Having tried and failed in so many ways to catch fire this campaign season, Mr. Rubio portrayed Mr. Trump as a con man who has tricked Republicans into believing he is an honest businessman and a genuine conservative.

“He is pulling the ultimate con job on the American people,” Mr. Rubio said. “It’s time to unmask him for what he is.”

But Mr. Rubio did not count on Mr. Christie, a totem of the Northeastern Republican establishment, bolting to Mr. Trump’s side on Friday and delivering the businessman’s biggest endorsement.

In doing so, Mr. Christie openly defied Republican attempts to isolate Mr. Trump as an unsavory party crasher and handed the front-runner an inexhaustible, media-savvy surrogate who on Friday pledged to travel the country campaigning for Mr. Trump and savaging his rivals.

Now we await other spineless, self-serving GOWPers (Greedy Old White Politicians) to enter the reality show that is the Trump campaign. All you would have to do is convince them that there are worse things than Fascism coming to America.

Will GOP voter turnout win the election?

It might very well depend on who heads the ticket and whether Latinos vote. Here's speculation from Jessica Taylor at NPR.

Trump has been strong across the GOP spectrum — winning evangelical voters, blue-collar workers and older Americans. But he's also a very polarizing figure, with upside down approval ratings nationally.

Ultimately, the calculation changes in a general election, where Republicans must find a way to win with a more diverse electorate.

And even as many in the GOP are beginning to accept that Trump may be on an unstoppable course to winning the nomination, that doesn't mean they aren't nervous about his ability to win over a growing Hispanic voting bloc nationally, especially given his harsh rhetoric on immigration.

In 2012, Latinos made up 10 percent of the vote, and Mitt Romney lost those voters to Obama by a stunning 44 points. Many Republicans worry that gap would grow if Trump or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz were their standard bearer.

"I can't think of a single biggest motivator for Hispanics to vote against Republicans than to have Donald Trump at the top of the ticket," said GOP strategist Brian Walsh, who's unaligned in the primary. "The enthusiasm is on our side, despite shifts demographically. It goes without saying that Trump and Cruz would harm that."

Empowerment Scholarships for All? Arizona taxpayers would empower the rich to get richer.

Let's not kid ourselves. Two bills in the legislature provide for vouchers for all: Republican Rep. Justin Olson’s HB2482 is a mirror bill to Republican Sen. Debbie Lesko’s SB1279. These vouchers on steroids bills do two things: (1) they enable transfers of public tax dollars to private, often religious, schools, and (2) they provide a taxpayer-funded benefit to those families who can already afford to pay for a quality private school. David Safier at Tucson Weekly/The Range explains.

... let's just look at the majority of children who don't need any special assistance. Let's estimate their ESAs are $4,000 a year and see what that will buy on the private school market. It won't pay most private elementary school tuitions, and it won't come close to paying most private high school tuitions. You can find schools whose tuition is in that ballpark, but the institutions have to scrimp on staff and services unless they're heavily subsidized. Really, the only reason to send a child to one of those low tuition schools is to get a religious education. Over 70 percent of Arizona's private schools are religiously affiliated—the percentage is similar around the country—and the schools with rock bottom prices aren't known for providing a quality education in non-religious subjects.

If parents want to send their children to what most people would consider a quality private school, one they might expect to provide a better education than a district school or charter, they're probably going to have to kick in a substantial amount of tuition money on their own, then they'll have to pay for textbooks, general supplies and other "extras." That means the people who will benefit most from the ESA money are upper middle class or upper class parents who can already afford the schools or come close. And benefit they would! They'd get a $4,000 scholarship to the expensive private school of their choice, courtesy of the taxpayer. As a bonus, they wouldn't have to worry about their children rubbing elbows with the riff raff, even those with ESAs. Lower income kids couldn't afford the school even with a $4,000 ESA boost, and if they could figure out a way to scrape the money together, well, remember, private schools can pick and choose which students they enroll, so it wouldn't be hard to figure out ways to exclude members of the great unwashed even if they somehow had the money.

The people who will benefit most from ESAs are people who can already afford private school or are only a few thousand dollars short of affording it, which should be a surprise to no one who has even a nodding acquaintance with Republican priorities. All those upper income folks have to do is put their children in public school for a hundred days, and they're golden through high school graduation.

Status: the AZ Senate passed SB 1279 along party lines. HB 2482 is still "retained on calendar" pending the GOPlin effort to scrape up more votes for it.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The only currency that counts is trust

Cross posted from www.RestoreReason.com.

I attended a Prop 123 Summit with Education Advocates two days ago in Phoenix.  All the major education advocacy organizations were “in the house” and the Governor’s Yes on Prop 123 Campaign staff were ready to tell us how we can help them get the initiative passed.  The organizations represented in the room had mostly already “signed on” to supporting the proposition.  What they shared yesterday though is the concerns their members were raising about the recent anti-public education actions underway in the Arizona Legislature.  The concern in the room was how much harder this was making the “sell” of Prop 123.

When the inflation lawsuit settlement was first announced and the details were made public, I heard from many people that “okay, I’ll hold my nose and support this, but I’ll be watching for what new monies the Governor includes in his budget for education.”  Well, the answer is basically “none.”  Then my thinking was “well, if they at least don’t try to cut anymore, maybe it will be okay.”  Guess what? Now we are looking at $211 million in deseg funding cuts, a change to current year funding, and the Legislature is trying to push through opening the floodgates on vouchers.

Sandoval withdraws from SCOTUS consideration

From Matthew Yglesias at Vox.com:

Brian Sandoval, Nevada's moderate Republican governor who conveniently also happens to be a former federal judge, is not going to be Barack Obama's choice for the Supreme Court vacancy after all.

His exit from consideration was all but inevitable in light of the political dynamics prevailing in the current political climate. But leaking the news that he was under consideration only to have Senate Republican leaders stand by the proposition that no Obama nominee is acceptable has already accomplished everything the White House could hope to in terms of demonstrating the Republicans' hostility to compromise.

I saw that one coming. I did.

Here's another take from Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line).

So Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, a Republican, has pulled his name from consideration to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. The floating of Sandoval was probably never more than an elaborate trolling exercise aimed at Republicans, but it served as a reminder that, before long, there actually will be a nominee, which will shift the political dynamic. Senate Republicans, of course, continue to vow that this nominee won’t get any hearing, no matter who it is.

But here’s one scenario in which it might be hard for Republicans to sustain that posture.

... in three weeks, though this is anything but assured, Trump could be the presumed nominee. If so, all heck will be breaking loose in the GOP asylum, which will be looking more out of control than ever. And Obama will have picked his choice for the Court. Are Republicans really going to continue to refuse to give any hearings to, or even meet with, a moderate Supreme Court nominee at that point?

... the point is that not considering Obama’s nominee at all could become a lot harder to sustain, if and when maximum Trump crazy breaks out.

You can fill in some of the details of Sargent's thinking by reading his Plum Line.

The good, bad, and ugly of Democratic voters

The good: Young Americans are scaring Republicans. A recent poll finds that they are "terrifyingly liberal."

The bad: Voter turnout of Democrats is way, way off previous election years. Rachel Maddow has been sounding the alarm bells - here reported by Daily Kos.

... caucuses in Nevada marked the fourth time in a row that Republicans have set a record for voter turnout this year," Rachel Maddow said. "Republicans have voted in four states so far this year and in every single one they have broken the voter turnout record for that state."

She then pointed out that turnout for Democrats so far is down. It was down 28% in Iowa. It was down 13% in New Hampshire. It was down 33% in Nevada.

The ugly: If Democrats do not vote, we get Donald Trump, or Ted Crooze, or Marco the RuBioBot.

Rachel showed [a chart] which illustrates the problem facing Democrats so far in the 2016 primaries. If voters stay on the sidelines then they would deserve the government that others elect for them.

AZ House puts hold on vouchers-for-all bill

The latest attempt at expanding the school voucher program to all million K-12 students has hit a road block in the AZ House. Here's the essence of the story from Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required).

The Arizona House of Representatives has postponed a debate on a bill to massively expand the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program. Several Republicans said the measure, which passed the Senate on Monday, doesn’t have the votes in the lower chamber.

Republican Rep. Justin Olson’s HB2482 is a mirror bill to Republican Sen. Debbie Lesko’s SB1279.
The bill was scheduled to go up for a debate in the House Committee of the Whole on Wednesday, but lawmakers skipped the legislation at the last minute amid talks that several Republicans and many Democrats planned to vote against it.

The bill would expand the school voucher system to all Arizona students, allowing roughly 1.1 million Arizona students to use tax dollars towards private schools.

Thus sucking money out of public education using the court-approved money laundering scheme. See Fitz's graphic depiction of what our legislators are doing to public education.

Republican Rep. T.J. Shope of Coolidge told his leadership team that he plans to vote against the bill. But he said GOP leadership has not given up hope on it, and House Republican Whip David Livingston is still attempting to get to the 31 votes necessary for the bill.

“He said they’re really close,” Shope said of Livingston.

Let's hope that, as in years past, the House leaves this one at "really close."

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Clinton endorses health care "public option"

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports on Hillary Clinton's endorsement of the public option. That option died during the fracas over the Affordable Care Act back in '09/'10 - in spite of its popularity. But now it could be making a big comeback.

Postscript: I’m very much inclined to give The New Republic’s Brian Beutler credit for keeping this issue alive, by the way. Brian published a good piece in mid-January, making the case for the public option, not only on the policy merits, but also as a political winner in a Democratic nominating contest. His commentary appears quite prescient now.

An experimental flat tax: Ducey's Dodge?

Here's the report on a tax cut proposal that let's Gov. Ducey off the hook for his promise to reduce income taxes every year eventually to zero. It is HB2018 by Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, reported by the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required).

So here’s a simple way to figure your taxes: List what you make, deduct $10,000 and pay 1 percent of that to the state.

That’s the plan that the state House adopted Wednesday, at least for those at the bottom of the income scale. It would allow single Arizonans who earn less than $25,000 a year to choose an optional flat tax instead of having to go through all the computations.

But Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, said he sees his legislation as just a starting point.

Stevens said SB2018 [it is HB 2018] is set up as a five-year pilot project to see how it works, who takes advantage of it, and how much the state might lose in revenues. He said there’s no reason the same system would not work for everyone.

Stevens acknowledged that, pretty much by definition, taxpayers will choose the method that costs them less.

He said legislative budget staffers have put the potential loss to the state at $39 million.

That’s based on an estimate that 660,000 people would be eligible to use the optional flat tax and that 312,000 would actually opt for that alternative. But Stevens said he’s not concerned about the price tag.

“The beauty is, that’s money back in their pockets,” he said. “That’s the goal, to have people keep more of what they earned and not to have the state take it.”

This is more of the "screw you, I've got mine" outlook.

Stevens may have something going for him politically that could help his measure become law.

Gov. Doug Ducey promised during his 2014 campaign to propose reducing taxes every year “with the goal of pushing income tax rates as close to zero as possible.” What Stevens is proposing could be a way for Ducey to meet that promise.

That would be Ducey's Dodge.

This report also appeared this morning in the AZ Daily Star.

P. S.

As of this morning (Thursday, 8:30 AM) the bill's status did not yet reflect passage by the House. Track it here.

 

Obama: A Responsibility I Take Seriously

Here is a guest post yesterday at SCOTUSblog by President Obama.

The Constitution vests in the President the power to appoint judges to the Supreme Court. It’s a duty that I take seriously, and one that I will fulfill in the weeks ahead.

It’s also one of the most important decisions that a President will make. Rulings handed down by the Supreme Court directly affect our economy, our security, our rights, and our daily lives.

Needless to say, this isn’t something I take lightly. It’s a decision to which I devote considerable time, deep reflection, careful deliberation, and serious consultation with legal experts, members of both political parties, and people across the political spectrum. And with thanks to SCOTUSblog for allowing me to guest post today, I thought I’d share some spoiler-free insights into what I think about before appointing the person who will be our next Supreme Court Justice.

First and foremost, the person I appoint will be eminently qualified. He or she will have an independent mind, rigorous intellect, impeccable credentials, and a record of excellence and integrity. I’m looking for a mastery of the law, with an ability to hone in on the key issues before the Court, and provide clear answers to complex legal questions.

Second, the person I appoint will be someone who recognizes the limits of the judiciary’s role; who understands that a judge’s job is to interpret the law, not make the law. I seek judges who approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice, a respect for precedent, and a determination to faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand.

But I’m also mindful that there will be cases that reach the Supreme Court in which the law is not clear. There will be cases in which a judge’s analysis necessarily will be shaped by his or her own perspective, ethics, and judgment. That’s why the third quality I seek in a judge is a keen understanding that justice is not about abstract legal theory, nor some footnote in a dusty casebook. It’s the kind of life experience earned outside the classroom and the courtroom; experience that suggests he or she views the law not only as an intellectual exercise, but also grasps the way it affects the daily reality of people’s lives in a big, complicated democracy, and in rapidly changing times. That, I believe, is an essential element for arriving at just decisions and fair outcomes.

A sterling record. A deep respect for the judiciary’s role. An understanding of the way the world really works. That’s what I’m considering as I fulfill my constitutional duty to appoint a judge to our highest court. And as Senators prepare to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to consider the person I appoint, I hope they’ll move quickly to debate and then confirm this nominee so that the Court can continue to serve the American people at full strength.

That was the President promising to do his duty according to Article II Section 2 of the United States Constitution.

Below is the attitude of the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee promising to NOT do their duty.

Every Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel responsible for evaluating judicial nominees in detail, met ... with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Soon after, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a longtime committee member, told the Associated Press the GOP group came to an agreement: there would be no hearing, no vote, and no confirmation of any nominee, regardless of merit or qualifications.

The operative word in Article II is "shall." Now who do you think is more qualified to hold their office?

h/t AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona

Saving America

A Roll Call columnist, Walter Shapiro, pleads with Republican leaders to unite in a move to stop Donald Trump. Shapiro takes Trump to task more for what he does not say than for his reprehensible bombast. No one really knows what Trump might do. Any predictions are based on the shifting sands of his outrageous and false claims.

Here are just a few snippets to motivate your reading of the complete article.

Dear President George W. Bush, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Gov. Mitt Romney:

I am writing you in your role as the de facto leaders of your party. Gentleman, the Republic is in peril. Donald Trump poses a mortal danger not just to the Republican Party, but also to the American democratic experiment itself.

You have seen how Trump’s temperament in public borders on the unhinged. And you have witnessed the vitriol that Trump directs at anyone who gets in his way.

But now, sensing how the political winds are blowing, prominent Republicans in Washington are busy convincing themselves that Trump is an authoritarian they can do business with. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy just said on MSNBC, “I think I can work with Donald Trump.”

Work with Donald Trump?

Everything in this campaign has demonstrated that Trump is only using the Republican Party for ballot access. He has no allegiance to any Republican ideology and offers no guarantee that Republicans will even be welcome in his White House.

The looming danger is that Trump could be elected president. If he prevails at the Cleveland Convention, only a wounded Hillary Clinton and a divided Democratic Party would stand between him and the White House.

Think for a moment of President Trump — a man who revels in getting even — in charge of the IRS, the FBI and the CIA.

None of you, I know, is comfortable imagining President Trump. And there’s no time to delay; the enemy (and that is not a word I use lightly) is at the gates. Which is why I urge all four of you to go public with an Anybody But Trump alliance.

What I am proposing is that the four of you issue a statement saying flatly that you could not support Trump, even if he were the Republican nominee. This is a moment when love of country trumps love of party.

The goal would not be to anoint a nominee, but to prevent Donald Trump from getting any closer to the levers of power.

You have all dedicated significant portions of your lives to public service. That is why you do not want to be remembered as leaders who sat on the sidelines — privately despairing — in the face of the gravest threat to American democracy in decades.

If these Republican leaders cannot stop Trump, then we need God to save America because America is incapable of saving itself. Good luck with that.

Shapiro's article was reprinted as the main editorial in today's Daily Star.

Trump's dangerous economic appeal

Quote of the day

"Trump is speaking to the fears of Americans who have lost faith not just in establishment politics, but in establishment economics" - John Nichols at The Nation

...Republican pollster Frank Luntz says that in the focus groups he’s conducted, he has regularly found people who voted for Obama twice but now say “they would consider Trump.” Why? Because Trump is speaking to the fears of Americans who have lost faith not just in establishment politics, but in establishment economics. And he is likely to do a lot more of that.

Watch what happens when he hits the rust belt.

Exposing establishment denial: It really is the economy, stupid!

Robert Reich (writing at commondreams.org) takes issue with the "establishment" about the electoral upheaval that brings Sanders and Trump to the fore.

A respected political insider recently told me most Americans are largely content. “The economy is in good shape,” he said. “Most Americans are better off than they’ve been in years. The problem has been the major candidates themselves.”

I beg to differ.

Economic indicators may be up but they don’t reflect the economic insecurity most Americans still feel, nor the seeming arbitrariness and unfairness they experience.

Nor do the major indicators show the linkages Americans see between wealth and power, crony capitalism, declining real wages, soaring CEO pay, and a billionaire class that’s turning our democracy into an oligarchy.

Median family income lower now than it was sixteen years ago, adjusted for inflation.

Most economic gains, meanwhile, have gone to top.

These gains have translated into political power to rig the system with bank bailouts, corporate subsidies, special tax loopholes, trade deals, and increasing market power – all of which have further pushed down wages pulled up profits.

Those at the very top of the top have rigged the system even more thoroughly. Since 1995, the average income tax rate for the 400 top-earning Americans has plummeted from 30 percent to 17 percent.

Wealth, power, and crony capitalism fit together. So far in the 2016 election, the richest 400 Americans have accounted for over a third of all campaign contributions.

Americans know a takeover has occurred and they blame the establishment for it.

The establishment doesn’t see what’s happening because it has cut itself off from the lives of most Americans. It also doesn’t wish to understand, because that would mean acknowledging its role in bringing all this on.

NE: A new watch on inequality

NE is computer speak for Not Equal. From time to time, Scriber will be devoting time and space here to provide snapshots of news stories and editorials about economic inequality. These are just trailers, so to speak, so feel free (or compelled) to dig deeper and read the target articles.

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has been charged with being a single issue candidate, the issue being economic inequality. It's one hell of a big issue that has gained traction all over the globe. The problem is that our elected leaders don't seem to get it.

Duke U. Chronicle: "Combating inequality is far from radical; it’s necessary. Major societal gaps between rich and poor are associated with greater rates of violence, drug abuse and mental illness. Correlation certainly does not prove causation, but the link is ominous. Moreover, high levels of inequality are harmful to economic growth. As such, the interests of those at the top are aligned with those at the bottom. If we do nothing, the wheels are bound to come off sooner rather than later."

Forbes magazine: "Why An Economy For The 1% Is Bad For Business, And Government ... We live in a world with levels of inequality we may not have seen for over a century ... If this is a world that’s all about making money, then making sure more people have money to earn and spend makes more sense than building a global economy where only a few can afford to participate.”

Asahi Shimbun: "The collective wealth of the world’s 62 richest people is roughly the same as the cumulative worth of the poorer half of the global population, or some 3.6 billion people. ... The two problems--increasing wealth concentration and growing threats from diseases and disasters--may appear to be unrelated at first glance. But they are linked to each other through poverty. ... With economic disparity and inequality growing increasingly serious, poor people are becoming especially vulnerable to the threats of diseases and disasters. The situation is further accelerating the widening of inequality in a vicious cycle."

South China Morning Post: "Mong Kok riots are a wakeup call ... The rise of violent political confrontation in Hong Kong has three critical causes. First is the growing socioeconomic divide that has deepened anxiety, insecurity and conflict in day-to-day life. Second is the government’s failure since 1997 to respond effectively to the new socioeconomic challenges and its refusal so far to reform the political system so the problems can be tackled. Third is the rising influence of radical intellectual ideas that have led youths to view the socioeconomic divide and approach the political system with deep animosity and little patience. They see the system as morally bankrupt and the struggle to reform if not to overthrow it as regaining their human dignity." [Scriber: So the pitchforks have come to Hong Kong?]

New York Times letter: "In partnership with The Nation, the Institute for Policy Studies has just put forward a set of bold proposals to curb runaway inequality and transform our economy. The solutions we have put forward are rooted in the idea that it will take sustained social movements to bring about lasting change. For example, the nurses’ union and other movements are fighting for a tax on Wall Street speculation that could generate enough revenue to set low-income families on a path to economic stability. Likewise, a 1 percent tax on concentrated wealth could erase student debt over a decade and bring the cost of public higher education to zero. We think that Americans see that the rules of the game are fixed and are ready to come together to change the rules."

The rich get richer thanks to Arizona's voucher program

azcentral.com reports on how Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (aka vouchers) are selectively benefitting wealthier families - and what it costs public education.

Two years after state lawmakers granted children from poor-performing schools the right to attend private schools at taxpayer expense, most children using the program are leaving high-performing public schools in wealthy districts, an analysis by The Arizona Republic has found.

Empowerment Scholarship Accounts allow parents to take tax money that would otherwise go directly to their local public schools and put it toward private-school tuition. Passed in 2011 as a program only for disabled children, the Legislature has continued to expand it, including to children in failing schools and others.

And now, our privatization first legislature is trying to worsen the situation by extending the program to all Arizona students.

For more see Linda Lyon's post here from yesterday.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Senate Judiciary Committee trashes US constitution, vows to shun any nominee for the Supreme Court

Here's the news (via AZBlueMeanie's post at Blog for Arizona).

Every Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel responsible for evaluating judicial nominees in detail, met in private this morning with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Soon after, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a longtime committee member, told the Associated Press the GOP group came to an agreement: there would be no hearing, no vote, and no confirmation of any nominee, regardless of merit or qualifications.

In this unconditional rejection of a constitutionally mandated process ("shall"), the GOP Senators have abandoned their oaths of office and their constitutional duties.

Here is more from the NY Times. The Times calls the GOP's response to any possible nominee "shunned."

“What is remarkable is the opposition is not to a particular candidate or even to the notion Obama will only nominate someone too extreme, but that he should not have any right to have a nomination considered,” said Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

[The Senate's moves] even before Mr. Obama put forward a choice for the court, has the Senate into unprecedented territory: Senators meet with high-court nominees as matters of courtesy and cordiality, but even that tradition has been rejected.

Another way to look at it: the GOP has just declared war on the US constitution.

There's more in another NY Times report.

Arizona's plan to privatize K-12 education

Do you see it any differently? If so, you need to explain the confluence of these legislative maneuvers. First, there is Prop 123 that robs education-future to pay for education-present. Second, there are SB1279 and HB2482 that provides vouchers for all. Paid for how? Well, having a state surplus that does not have to be used for K-12 (cf. Prop 123) certainly helps. Third, we have SB1125 and HB2401 that eliminate school district taxes for desegregation funding - a $200 million hit to K-12 education.

Public education in Arizona is in the cross-hairs of the GOPlins. The weapons are fiscal starvation and transfer of funds through the money laundering scheme called School Tuition Organizations.

AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona continues:

[AZ Sen.] Debbie Lesko wants to eliminate public education in Arizona entirely by diverting your tax dollars from the public school system for which the Arizona Constitution provides, and making that money available to private and parochial schools in direct violation of several provisions of the Arizona Constitution.

The original 2011 law — the one giving vouchers to special-needs students — was challenged by the Arizona Education Association as violating a state constitutional provision that bars public funds from being used for religious worship or instruction. But the state Court of Appeals created a legal fiction that it is the parents who decide where to spend the dollars, not the state. The judges ruled that makes who ultimately gets the dollars irrelevant.

That reasoning is simply jaw-dropping. It really does boil down to money laundering (as I have argued in the past). A-->C is illegal so A-->B-->C is used in its stead. In this case, the parents (B) get the state off the hook.

To top it off, Prop 123 grants K-12 only 70 cents on the dollar of what is owed by the legislature. And the legislature can renege at will.

For Arizona’s “education leaders” who signed the letters of surrender to Arizona’s lawless Tea-Publican legislature on Prop. 123, this is what you get for your cowardly surrender — they will take away everything else from you now that you have laid down your arms and promised not to fight.

Kasich is not moderate, he's just not as Krazy as the other GOPlins

But that's a crappy reason to vote for anyone. Pamela Powers Hannley at Blog for Arizona explains why this season's Republican moderates are not moderate at all. The Samantha Bee video trashes Kasich's "moderate" credentials.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A musical tribute to Jeb(!): #GOPDropout

Terrific sendoff via Facebook here.

Breaking with Borowitz: Congress relocates to Guantánamo

Andy Borowitz at the New Yorker has the story.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Making good on one of his key campaign promises, President Obama signed an executive order on Tuesday relocating the United States Congress to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The President seemed to relish signing the order, calling the relocation a “win-win for America,” and indicating that Congress could be moved to its new headquarters “immediately.”

[snip]

Minutes after the President signed the order, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) called it “an outrage” and “grounds for impeachment,” but Obama appeared to take such howls of protest in stride.

“If Congress believes that this executive order is illegal, they can take it up with the Supreme Court,” he said. “Oh wait—we don’t have a Supreme Court.”

Hmmm. Latest news is that Obama has presented a plan to close Gitmo to Congress. I've got two thoughts on that. (1) If he threatens to send Congress there, they will approve his plan to avoid that fate. (2) Once Obama gets Congress there, he will close it and be rid of obstructionists.

Hot! Hot! Hot! Al Gore is hot on climate change

Yes, the climate news is pretty grim, but what you may not know is that the world's reaction to it is heating up. Gore provides both the bad news and the good with an excellent talk rooted in science, economics, and politics.

From the summary of Gore's TED talk:

Al Gore has three questions about climate change and our future. First: Do we have to change? Each day, global-warming pollution traps as much heat energy as would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs. This trapped heat is leading to stronger storms and more extreme floods, he says: "Every night on the TV news now is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation." Second question: Can we change? We've already started. So then, the big question: Will we change? In this challenging, inspiring talk, Gore says yes. "When any great moral challenge is ultimately resolved into a binary choice between what is right and what is wrong, the outcome is foreordained because of who we are as human beings," he says. "That is why we're going to win this."

Here is the link to the video and here is the link to the transcript.

Screw you, I've got mine

Cross posted from www.RestoreReason.com
Now that it looks like the AZ Legislature will be successful in finally opening the floodgates on vouchers (empowerment scholarship accounts) for K-12 education, I’ve got some other ideas they should consider. After all, the Legislature has made it clear that taxpayers are the ones best equipped to decide where their tax dollars go and that transparency and accountability don’t matter. Other than quarterly reports on spending, there is virtually no accountability in the voucher program; students aren’t even required to test and private schools don’t need to report any kind of results so there is no way for taxpayers to determine if their tax dollars were well spent.
Since I don’t have any children or grandchildren, I’ve been thinking about how I can take advantage of the Legislature’s privatization fixation. My first idea is one of safety and security. We don’t live in an incorporated township, so we rely on the county sheriff’s department to ensure our safety and security. The service provided is adequate, but I really think I can do better by looking to a private security firm to meet my needs. After all, surely a private security firm can do a better job right? That Blackwater firm was just an anomaly, right? So, I’m not sure what percentage of my tax dollars support the county sheriff’s office, but I want the state to give that back to me and I’ll hire my own guys. I’ll probably have to pay extra for the private solution, but it will be worth it.

Who is blocking Obama's Supreme Court nomination? Just follow the money.

The Republican Senators get the press and take the heat. But the lame-stream media, according to this Daily Kos report, are too shallow in the reporting (h/t Miriam Lindmeier). The real driving force is the Koch brothers and their financial kochtopus.

The media’s telescopic gaze following the death of Supreme Court Justice Scalia last week was, true to form, pointing in exactly the wrong direction. Scalia’s death prompted a breathless flood of pundit analysis focused on whether the Republican Party is violating Senate protocol or the Constitution itself by refusing to vote on the nomination of a new Supreme Court Justice in President Obama’s final year in office. Much chatter was devoted to rehashing the deliberate obstruction this president has had to cope with. While undoubtedly true, this misses the forest for the trees. It doesn’t matter so much what Republicans’ “excuse” is—or even whether it violates the clear intent of the Constitution—it does.

What really matters is why they're doing it, and who it serves. The answer to that question leads straight to their donor base. Although it scarcely bears repeating, the Republican Senate and (to an even greater extent) the Republican House of Representatives now exists to serve the economic interests of a tiny group of very, very wealthy people, people who now stand to either gain or lose hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars spent complying with environmental, finance and labor laws and regulations, depending on who replaces Scalia. That is what this fight is all about. For the GOP and the billionaires who pull their strings, much ballyhooed rhetoric about abortion, affirmative action, union rights and voting rights are all subsidiary to this main event.

The two most prominent members of this tiny group of people are Charles and David Koch ...

The Koch brothers are widely recognized as the most important donors to the Republican Party. Their influence on the Republican Party is so smothering that many observers have recognized it to have supplanted the normal party apparatus itself, in effect, operating through its vast network of organizations as the de facto Party itself. At least two of the Supreme Court justices, the now-deceased Scalia and his go-along lackey Clarence Thomas, were fully invested in the Kochs’ hopes and dreams, attending their secretive conferences whose topics included “climate change alarmism” and “the regulatory assault on energy.” Sensing the immediacy of the crisis last week, the Kochs’ front group, “Judicial Crisis Network” took to the airwaves before Scalia’s body was even embalmed ...

“Judicial Crisis Network” is a 501(c)4 group that receives funding from the Wellspring Committee, a Koch-founded organization. Its purpose is to influence public opinion, and either reward or punish senators depending on whether they vote in the Koch Brothers’ and similar gas/oil interests. Those interests, more than anything else, are in rolling back government regulation of their oil, gas and coal companies’ activities, activities which are significantly regulated because by their very nature they threaten our lands, waters, and the air we breathe.

Another Koch-spawned “conservative advocacy group”, FreedomWorks, has echoed the same veiled warning against allowing any hearing on the President’s Supreme Court nomination, admonishing Republican Senators to obey.

You can read more about the kochtopus here, but the bottom line is this.

Confirmation fights for Supreme Court justices are a part of American history, but the complete refusal by a political party to entertain a vote on a nominee is without precedent in modern times. The actions of GOP Senate are the logical extension of their refusal, since assuming a majority, to voluntarily allow a vote on virtually any of this president’s judicial nominees. It is no accident that that the willingness of virtually every Republican senator to flout and disregard the Constitution as if it amounted to nothing but sidestepping a piece of trash on the sidewalk coincides with the total domination of the GOP by private citizens like the Kochs, who have no fealty or responsibility towards the Constitution to begin with.

The Kochs’ far-reaching tentacles have made it abundantly clear who calls the shots, issues the marching orders, and pulls the strings for the party. So when the media say “the Republicans” are deciding how and why they’ll oppose the president’s authority to nominate the next Supreme Court Justice, we should remember it’s not really the Republicans whose faces we’ve come to recognize in the media that are fighting to stop the nomination. It’s the Kochs and their ilk who have effectively taken our country hostage.

Latest data are a problem for Sanders

Any way you cut it, the latest numbers are not good for Bernie. (And remember I like Bernie for his progressive ideals so I do not like the numbers. But they are what they are. Please don't shoot the messenger!)

Two reports have analyses of the voting in three primaries thus far. First is the observation that the Democratic voter turnout in 2016 is lower than in 2008 - not a good thing for Sanders. Second is the pattern of voting by those Dems who back Obama's policies winning (for Clinton) over those who want a shift to the left.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports on the low Democratic voter turnout.

Sanders himself said it: "We did not do as good a job as I had wanted to bring out a large turnout."

... so far, in 2016 contests, Republicans have broken turnout records in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, while Democratic turnout has gone down, not up, since the party’s last competitive cycle.

In the 2008 Democratic caucuses in Nevada – the first year the contest existed in earnest – turnout was roughly 120,000 voters. On Saturday, it appears turnout reached about 80,000 people, which represented a cycle-to-cycle drop of around 33%.

In Iowa, Democratic turnout went from roughly 236,000 in 2008 to about 171,000 this year, which works out to a 25% drop, while in New Hampshire, Democratic turnout went from about 288,000 in 2008 to roughly 251,000 this year, which is a drop of around 13%.

So a key part of Sanders' strategy is not working. A question is whether these numbers will be predictive of the other states' primary turnout.

More fundamentally, this dismal showing of Democratic voters is really bad news for chances of keeping the White House in November regardless of which Democratic candidate get the nomination.

Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) reports on the pattern showing voters favoring continuance of Obama's policies.

In Nevada, more voters wanted to “generally continue Barack Obama’s policies” than wanted to “change to more liberal policies” by a 50-41 margin. Clinton won among that former group, by 75-22, while Sanders won among the latter group by 77-21.

A pattern is emerging: In Iowa, New Hampshire, and now Nevada, the data suggest that Clinton won overwhelmingly among those voters who want to continue Obama’s policies, while Sanders won overwhelmingly among those who want a decisive break from them in a more liberal direction. ...

Who gets the nomination is important to individual Dems, but that may be the least of any of our worries given the voter turnout numbers.

Can the nation prevent American Fascism and halt our descent into darkness?

And do the "people" want to?

Following on to my post about the latest numbers: what do they suggest about the general election?

AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona reports on a seriously scary analysis by a Harvard political scientist, Danielle Allen, in the Washington Post. Allen writes:

Like any number of us raised in the late 20th century, I have spent my life perplexed about exactly how Hitler could have come to power in Germany. Watching Donald Trump’s rise, I now understand. Leave aside whether a direct comparison of Trump to Hitler is accurate. That is not my point. My point rather is about how a demagogic opportunist can exploit a divided country.

Allen goes on to argue that the best (of the bad) strategies is for Republicans to unite behind (gasp) Marco the RoBioBot.

The only way to stop [Trump], then, is to achieve ... coordination across party lines and across divisions within parties. We have reached that moment of truth.

Republicans, you cannot count on the Democrats to stop Trump. I believe that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination, and I intend to vote for her, but it is also the case that she is a candidate with significant weaknesses, as your party knows quite well. The result of a head-to-head contest between Clinton and Trump would be unpredictable. Trump has to be blocked in your primary.

Democrats, your leading candidate is too weak to count on as a firewall. She might be able to pull off a general election victory against Trump, but then again she might not. Too much is uncertain this year. You, too, need to help the Republicans beat Trump; this is no moment for standing by passively. If your deadline for changing your party affiliation has not yet come, re-register and vote for Rubio, even if, like me, you cannot stomach his opposition to marriage equality. I too would prefer Kasich as the Republican nominee, but pursuing that goal will only make it more likely that Trump takes the nomination. The republic cannot afford that.

BlueMeanie closes by taking exception to Allen's recommendation.

While I agree with Allen’s diagnosis, I cannot agree with her recommended cure. Marco Rubio Roboto? A man-child with no accomplishments of which to speak who is programmed by his handlers to the point of being an automaton? And a Neoconservative war monger to boot? This is not a cure, it is a different disease.

And Allen badly misjudges the reasonableness of Ted “Calgary” Cruz. He also is a fascist, of the Christofascist variety. He is arguably more dangerous than Trump, because he is a true believer. Trump is an egomaniac who is simply manipulating people to satisfy his ego. The difference is one of kind and degree of authoritarianism between Trump and Cruz.

Trump, Cruz and Rubio are the manifestation of a disease that afflicts Tea-Publican Party voters, a malignant disease that is fueled by the purveyors of hatred and fear in the conservative media entertainment complex.

The GOP has descended into madness and it has no candidate who is capable of appealing to reason, rationality, common values and human decency. The modern-day GOP is a political party that must be defeated and disassembled, for the good of the country and the future of democracy, before this country descends into darkness.

Agreed, but the gazillion dollar question is how to defeat the GOP madness. As I commented on the BlueMeanie post, what's the alternative?

Good find on Allen’s essay, but in disagreeing with her RuBioBot strategy, you leave us what alternative? What is your plan to defeat Trump? A brokered GOP convention? A prayer that either of our Dem candidates will prevail in the general election? What?