Saturday, April 30, 2016

Connecting the dots: Arizona's war on public education

Laurie Roberts sees the connections between Koch funds and the so-called "economic freedom schools" and Prop 123.

I do love dots…especially when they begin to connect up and give us a clearer picture of what is going on in Arizona.

Take the plan by one of our mystery leaders to give $5 million annually in public funding to three “economic freedom schools” at Arizona State University and University of Arizona.

... DOT ... Now comes a plan to spend $5 million a year on these three Arizona think tanks started by the Kochs.

Nobody knows who put the $5 million into the budget. But the Arizona Free Enterprise Club – one of the Koch-connected dark-money groups that supported Ducey in 2014 -- is lobbying to make sure it stays in the budget.

... DOT ...Meanwhile, William Boyes, the founding director of the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty -- one of the three think tanks that'll now be publicly funded -- has called for eliminating public schools.

You really should want to know more about Boyes and the history of the move to eliminate public schools. So here it is from Donna Gratehouse at Blog for Arizona. Consider it required reading!

Boyes really is a piece of work. Check out this video. (Thanks for the link, Donna!) If you are short on time, go to the 8:30 mark to hear Boyes' road map for the destruction, the total privatization, of public education. Imagine the very worst aspects of Ayn Rand and the John Birch Society and Grover Norquist. Munge it all up and you get Boyes. Privatize public ed and there will be no more need for property taxes. (Hootin' and hollerin' from the audience.)

Seriously, there is a fundamental logical problem with what Boyes touts. He uses the computer industry, and particularly the miniaturization of desktop machines, to extol the virtues of the free market. He argues that the same free market principles should be applied to education. But the contradiction is this: the very educational system Boyes wants to destroy was responsible for the scientists and engineers who were responsible for the great transition from punch card readers to the the chips powering desktop computing. And Boyes would have us destroy that system.

Watch the video. Know the enemy. And then let's put pressure on the lawbreakers in Phoenix to stop the $5 million grant to public educational institutions for the express purpose of destroying public education.

Trump Triumphant? Why his foreign policy is like a plate of spaghetti.

GOP's stages of grief: Now in acceptance mode. Trump appears inevitable and the GOPlins are lining up.

On Capitol Hill, support for Trump has also gotten markedly easier to find.

For example:

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a respected senior member of the Senate, previously endorsed Jeb Bush and then Sen. Marco Rubio and said he doesn’t intend to endorse Trump. But Hatch said of Trump, “It looks to me like he’s going to win, and if he does, I’m going to do everything in my power to help him.”

Trump's foreign policy is a mish-mash of contradictions. But the GOP will support him anyway.

After Donald Trump’s “major” foreign policy address, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Bob Corker, announced that he was very impressed, extolling “the broadness, the vision” of the speech. The Wall Street Journal said it was “serious.” The National Interest’s Jacob Heilbrunn opined that the candidate was “more restrained.” Clearly we now consider it a wonder of sorts that Trump can spend 40 minutes in front of cameras during which he avoids vulgarity, refrains from bigotry and reads from a teleprompter.

The most striking aspect of the speech was its repeated contradictions. “We will spend what we need to rebuild our military,” he promised (though Washington already spends more than the next seven countries put together). But almost in the same breath, he talked about pinching pennies because of the crippling national debt. Trump is against humanitarian interventions, but implied that we should have intervened to help embattled Christians in the Middle East.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Ted Cruz steps in the poo-poo of the politics of transgender use of gender-appropriate bathrooms

He hopes to come out smelling better than Trump in the Indiana primary, Indiana being a major battleground on the politics of bathroom use.

The New York Times has the story.

What's the issue?

... Mr. Trump said last week that people should be free to “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate.” Mr. Trump was responding to the furor over a North Carolina law that stripped legal protections from gay and transgender people.

What is Cruz saying about it?

As Senator Ted Cruz of Texas seeks every possible edge to stop Donald J. Trump, he has seized on a once-obscure issue with a proven power to inflame conservatives: letting transgender women use women’s bathrooms.

Mr. Cruz mentions it constantly in Indiana, a state with many social conservatives that is all but a last stand for him in his fight to deprive Mr. Trump of the Republican presidential nomination.

In leveraging the issue, Mr. Cruz has raised the specter of sexual predators in women’s restrooms, which conservatives around the country have effectively invoked to defeat anti-discrimination laws — and which gay rights advocates denounce as a myth.

What's at stake?

I mean other than Indiana delegates.

The topic could surface in July at the Republican convention, where a fight is already brewing in the platform committee to overturn the party’s historical objection to same-sex marriage. In a little-noticed move this winter, the Republican National Committee called on states to pass laws limiting access to school bathrooms and locker rooms based on students’ “anatomical sex.”

And the states are doing it in spite of no evidence that use of bathrooms appropriate for gender identity increases sexual crimes.

What are the facts?

The first thing for us all to recognize is that facts do not matter. Facts fall and evidence fails in the face of religious zealotry ... and conservative demagoguery.

Here's just one example cited by the New York Times.

Gerri Nottingham, a nurse from Indianapolis, recalled Mr. Trump’s saying it would be too expensive to build separate restrooms, and she agreed. “If you’ve got that issue, just go home,” she advised. “You just have to plan.”

Ms. Nottingham, too, plans to vote for Mr. Cruz. She said she found it hard to accept that a person born one sex would identify as another. “I work in labor and delivery,” she said. “They come out one gender.”

Evidently, the thousands of research reports on the origins of gender identity do not hold sway with Ms. Nottingham. (I will do the gentlemanly thing and not comment on the quality of her training as a nurse.)

What are the facts? (I bravely persevere in the belief that facts do matter.)

Start with what the great font of human knowledge knows. Here is the lead from the WiKi entry on "gender identity."

Gender identity is one's personal experience of one's own gender.[1] All societies have a set of gender categories that can serve as the basis of the formation of a person's social identity in relation to other members of society.[2] In most societies, there is a basic division between gender attributes assigned to males and females,[3] a gender binary to which most people adhere and which enforces conformance to ideals of masculinity and femininity in all aspects of sex and gender: biological sex, gender identity, and gender expression.[4] In all societies, some individuals do not identify with some (or all) of the aspects of gender that are assigned to their biological sex;[5] some of those individuals are transgender or genderqueer. Some societies have third gender categories.

Core gender identity is usually formed by age three.[6],[7] After age three, it is extremely difficult to change,[6] and attempts to reassign it can result in gender dysphoria.[8] Both biological and social factors have been suggested to influence its formation.

See the WiKi entry for the references numbered above.

For more on the current research on gender identity see the review article in the American Psychological Association Monitor. You can find databases containing the scientific literature on gender identity at the National Center for Biotechnological Information, but beware: there are thousands of books and journal articles on the topic.

So the facts are these. Gender identity is a product of both biological and social factors. It is formed very early in life, and once formed, it is difficult, if not impossible, to change. Transgendered individuals are found in virtually every society on this planet and some societies even identify transgendered persons as a unique gender.

Here is one more challenge to the facts from Cruz and his zealous supporters (again from the Times' article).

Earlier, Mr. Cruz said, “If the law says that any man, if he chooses, can enter a women’s restroom, a little girls’ restroom, and stay there, and he cannot be removed because he simply says at that moment he feels like a woman, you’re opening the door for predators.”

A coalition of groups that fight sexual assault and domestic violence issued a statement last week saying that in the 18 states that protect transgender people’s right to use any restroom, there has been no increase in sexual violence.

Concluding challenges

One is to the readers: is there any reported instance of a transgendered (M2F type) sexually molesting a woman in a women's bathroom? Let me know.

Let's stop here for a few moments and ponder how our great nation got so involved with how you pee-pee and where you poo-poo. Maybe "limited government" now just includes a bunch of right-wing religious zealots out to stick their noses in your private parts. Maybe "limited" just describes the mental breadth and depth of those who subscribe to the concept.

Now a message to those zealots who are interested in my private parts and how I use them and whether they comport with my gender identity: you can kiss my a$$.

Views from the dark side: If you vote no on prop 123, you are against education funding

It's now out there and public. The ploy from the anti-education TeaPublicans should the May 17 vote go against Prop 123 is now quite clear. It's exactly as predicted.

First, here is Ann-Eve Pedersen's Facebook comment.

This is a very clear explanation of the dynamics in the Legislature and Governor's Office as to public education funding. We are in a lose-lose situation with these folks. And the author is absolutely right to ask all of us what we plan to do as individuals whether Prop. 123 wins or fails. Anti-public education legislators must be outed and ousted. We have been too nice for way, way too long.

Quoting from the Save Arizona's Public Education System Facebook post.

Today, State House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro (R-Avondale) offered his view on the effects of a rejection of Prop 123. "If the people of Arizona tell us no on 123 - what they are telling us is - they don't want more money to go to education," said Montenegro. "And what they want us to focus on are reforms."

Do you see the way Montenegro has spun the truth to fit his narrative? The people of Arizona don't want more money for education. The people of Arizona don't want to invest in our kids and future. What could be further from the truth?

This leadership is in the driver's seat. They make the rules. I think we have to understand that there's a reason so many education leaders and groups are advocating for the passage of 123. They know what they are dealing with and they've been dealing with it for years. Not only do we have a legislative majority of extremist, anti-public education folks, but we have an apathetic public. Education leaders did not feel they could do any better and didn't want to lose more money to lawyers so they made the decision to accept this settlement.

There has been so much speculation about what could happen if the Prop doesn't pass. I have seen people speculating that the court will hold Ducey and the #AZleg in contempt or whisk them away to jail. I have seen speculation that Dewitt will be able to sue and somehow get funds into our hands within months. But, we have to remember this is pure speculation and it is not based in reality. Who presides over the courts? Who nominates these judges? There are 5 justices on the Supreme Court and they are each appointed by the governor? Again, think about who has been the legislative majority in Arizona for a long, long time. I have seen speculation over what's going to come of the triggers in the Prop. The triggers are problematic--there is no argument there, but we have to acknowledge that they are passing bills every year that are just as damaging to the future of education.

I do think there's more to consider than just the ideological arguments of Prop 123. We have to deal with the reality of it passing or not passing. If this thing does not pass, are you going to show up at the Capitol in the following days or weeks to protest this Legislature? Are you willing to invest yourself completely, to the point of discomfort, to get these people out of office?

And then there will be a wait for money. That wait will be years. What do we tell our teachers and kids? How do we support them? I am not advocating in either direction for 123 here, I am asking questions about what comes next. What are the facts? What will this reality be? Will your retirement be impacted? Will we lose more teachers? We need the facts. We are already bracing for the hits in the new budget and the likely change in the funding formula.

I am not comfortable telling you at this time how to vote on this one. I echo your doubts, anger, and fear about the people in charge. But, I am asking you to look at this from a logical and realistic perspective, whether you support or oppose 123. We have to stay clear-headed about how we approach this. We cannot get angry and worked up and send in our ballots and clock out the next day. Because we already know what Steve Montenegro and Doug Ducey are going to say the next day.

So, make your decision. Send in your ballots. Whatever happens with Prop 123, remember, it's not the problem--it's a symptom of the problem. You have to be the solution.

Another way of putting it: Don't get mad - get even. Or: Get mad and then get even.

Former AZ Supreme Court Chief Justice gives reasons for No on 123, Scriber adds "Ducey's budget"

Here is some of what Stanley Feldman said in the Special to the Arizona Daily Star.

Given the position of the Governor and current legislative majority, any hope that they will cure the problem is pure fantasy. We need to do a lot better, and we need to do it the way Arizona’s founders envisioned for our schools.

Let’s follow through with what the taxpayers ordered in 2000 with Prop. 301 and fight it out in the courts, which have already held that the Legislature must obey Prop. 301.

Let’s not indulge in this fantasy that the current legislative majority and the Governor will do what is necessary to solve the problem.

If they were willing to do that, they would have done what they were commanded to do in Prop. 301 or could have allocated some of the current $1 billion surplus for our schools.

Ducey was complicit in more cuts for education in the budget

It really does come down to trust. Now that Il Duce is taking serious heat about the budget, his budget, watch the backpedalling on the items in the budget that are harmful to public education. Here's another story on that from Howard Fischer in the Star.

Gov. Doug Ducey is counting on rank-and-file lawmakers to restore some cuts in public school funding — cuts that are in the budget deal he negotiated with Republican legislative leaders.

There are signs that’s going to happen.

A tentative agreement being negotiated late Thursday would reverse a decision, made last year, by lawmakers to change how the state calculates aid to schools. The result, if a compromise is reached, would be to restore money that schools would have lost in the state budget agreement announced earlier this week.

The deal also would scrap a proposed change in the law that would penalize districts that use their own taxpayer dollars to build schools.

“We’re very close,” the governor said in a tweet about the budget process.

Guv, you were already there. You were part of the budget deal that would have inflicted more harm on public education. Here comes the spin.

Scarpinato said despite Ducey’s blessing for the plan, his boss never believed it would be the last word.

Pressure has been building since it was determined the budget proposal — which is supposed to represent the consensus of Ducey and state GOP leaders — would cut the amount of money going to K-12 schools this coming year.

No matter how they spin it, the bottom line is this.

The bottom line is that K-12 funding next year under the deal Ducey agreed to would have been $21 million less than what the schools would otherwise get automatically just from enrollment and inflation.

This, friends, is the future of education in Arizona: a constant rear guard action against the anti-education TeaPublican crowd that will stab education in the back.

Let's go back to court.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Scriber on vacation

WiFi might be a bit spotty for the next couple of weeks but I will try to track my usual sources as best I can. But that ranks behind my vacation activities. Hasta Luego.

Why Scriber is voting NO on Prop 123

As much as I would like to have more money into our public schools, like yesterday (!), I cannot bring myself to vote for Prop 123. Laurie Roberts explains why in her editorial piece at The Republic/azcentral.com and concludes as follows.

In the end, I suppose whether you can launch yourself onto the Prop. 123 bandwagon comes down to one issue: trust.

Do you trust this state’s political leaders when they say it’s OK to use funds that belong to future generations of students to pay the bills that belong to our leaders? Do you trust them enough to weaken protections that voters wrote into the law 16 years ago?

Do you trust our leaders when they say this is the best path forward for public schools?

Leaders who have made some of the deepest cuts to K-12 education in the nation. Leaders who have spent years siphoning money from public schools and giving it to private schools in the form of ever-expanding Empowerment Scholarship Accounts and ever-expanding tax credits for private school tuition.

Leaders who are now considering public funding for an “economic freedom school” at ASU whose founding director has called for eliminating public education.

Do you trust that Prop. 123 is a first step toward improving public education as opposed to the next step in dismantling public education?

I’d like to support Prop. 123. I really would. Yet every time I look at that happy bandwagon, filled with smiling children, it’s appearing more and more like a Trojan horse.

Here is more from Ann-Eve Pedersen writing on her Facebook page.

I've been pretty quiet about Prop. 123, only commenting here or there on others' FB feeds. But I've been asked enough times how I'm voting that I think it's time to offer some thoughts.

I was reading an opinion piece in the NYT this morning where the author quoted philosopher Martin Buber saying "a good and great idea will rise again when idea and fate meet in a creative hour."

Prop. 123 is not a great idea. In fact, it's quite a flawed idea. This is most definitely not a creative hour. The chief architects of Prop. 123 in the Governor's office are not friends of public education; many of its advocates are the very people who have been actively undermining public education in our state for years. Anytime you see Koch-brother backed organizations, like Americans for Prosperity, get behind something, beware. I don't begrudge the education plaintiffs; they have been on the receiving end of a full-on assault against public education for years.

I have been wary to weigh in because I don't want to give foes of public education another big win by creating a wedge issue that creates bad feelings among friends. I'm afraid that has already occurred to some extent.

I think the underlying court case should be allowed to come to its conclusion. The fear that the original 5-0 vote in favor of education on the AZ Supreme Court will be overturned because of one new justice and perhaps a court-backing plan is being given too much weight.

Money will not be immediately released to schools if Prop. 123 wins because the issue will be tied up in the courts for some time. Frankly, I'd rather see the education community move forward with an issue it has already won in the courts rather than try out a new issue that's undecided.

Having led a statewide initiative for education funding in 2012, I understand how fiercely everyone is defending their position, one way or the other.

But I think we all realize this is not the solution and I'm not of the belief it's even the beginning of the solution. I think it's the means to an ugly end.

It is time for the good and great idea and time for the creative hour. Yes, we are desperate for the change that we all know is needed. But this is not it.

Our foes are not our friends. Please, let's not give them that. And to anyone cutting a back-room deal with Gov. Ducey, why would you ever, ever be so unwise? Surely, you should know by now he doesn't keep his promises.

I dealt with Ducey first-hand during the Prop. 204 campaign, when he led the opposition and brought in dark money from the Koch brothers to defeat permanent education funding for K-12, community colleges and universities.

I found him then to be an incredibly dishonest and untrustworthy individual who believes in dismantling public education. My opinion remains unchanged.

I'm going to mark my ballot now with a vote of NO on Prop 123.

Want more? What Il Duce giveth Dicey Ducey taketh away. Education keeps getting shorted by Duce and the GOPlins.

Want still more? David Safier writing in the Tucson Weekly/The Range reaffirms his decision to vote "yes". But with major qualifications like trying to pin down Duce and the GOPlins on what "first step" means.

"First step" is one of those vague, Rorschach-test statements politicians love which allow voters to deduce the meaning based on their own desires. If you're a pro-education-funding voter, you're supposed to imagine it means the next step is to put more money in public education. If you think our "government schools" are wasting money on administration and we're "throwing money" at "failing schools," then you can imagine the next step has nothing to do with increasing funding. It's about firing administrators, defunding "government schools," especially those with lots of poor and minority kids, and increasing funds for "school choice" — meaning plenty of money for charter and private schools.

Ducey and gang are in the second group.

Here's just one more snippet from David about "trust."

But does a Yes vote mean I trust Ducey? Hell No! Let me qualify that Hell No! The only thing I trust about Ducey is that he will continue to be a lying weasel who will do whatever it takes to push through his anti-people, pro-tax-cuts-for-the-rich agenda. My Yes vote is a statement that Prop 123 is a weak first step toward raising Arizona's lowest-in-the-nation per-student funding (or second or third lowest, depending on who's counting) to a higher level, but it's not nearly enough. We need to insist the legislature does more. Much more. Hundreds of millions of dollars more. And we need to do everything we can to throw out the bastards who get in the way of doing what's best for our children by working to defund and dismantle our public education system.

I understand the reasons for a "yes" vote, but, for me, the lack of trust, or more precisely my trust in the GOP leaders in AZ to do the wrong thing for public education, tips the balance to the "no" vote.

Why Sanders will/should stay in the race

According to Jim Hightower writing in Salon.com, "Why Bernie Sanders will, should and must stay in the race".

Jim says Bernie's already won. Now he has to insure the longevity of the changes he has caused. "Bernie has substantively changed American politics for the better — his movement must endure."

Surprisingly, this week’s prize for “Stupidest Political Comment in the Presidential Race” doesn’t go to Donnie Trump or Ted Cruz. Rather, the honor goes to the clueless cognoscenti of conventional political wisdom. These pundits and professional campaign operatives have made a unilateral decision that Bernie Sanders must now quit the race for the Democratic nomination. Why? Because, they say: “He Can’t Win.”

Actually, he already has. Sanders’ vivid populist vision, unabashed idealism, and big ideas for restoring America to its own people have jerked the presidential debate out of the hands of status quo corporatists, revitalized the class consciousness and relevance of the Democratic Party, energized millions of young people to get involved, and proven to the Democratic establishment that they don’t have to sell out to big corporate donors to raise the money they need to run for office.

...

As Sanders puts it: “I run not to oppose any man or woman, but to propose new and far-reaching policies to deal with the crisis of our times… It may be too late to stop the billionaire class from trying to buy the presidency and congress… But we owe it to our children and grandchildren to try…We need to face up to the reality of where we are as a nation, and we need a mass movement of people to fight for change.” That’s what real politics should be — not merely a vacuous campaign to elect a personality, but a momentous democratic movement fighting for the common good.

Bern up the track!

h/t Green Valley 4 Bernie.

But Sanders' campaign is getting scaled back

The NY Times reports that Sanders' campaign is laying off hundreds of workers.. The sharpened focus is on delegate-rich California.

Senator Bernie Sanders is planning to lay off “hundreds” of campaign staffers across the country and focus much of his remaining effort on winning California, he said in an interview Wednesday.

The Vermont senator revealed the changes a day after losing four of the five states that voted Tuesday and falling further behind Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Despite the changes, Mr. Sanders said he would remain in the race through the party’s summer convention and stressed that he hoped to bring staff members back on board if his political fortunes improved.

“We want to win as many delegates as we can, so we do not need workers now in states around the country,” Mr. Sanders said in the interview. “We don’t need people right now in Connecticut. That election is over. We don’t need them in Maryland. So what we are going to do is allocate our resources to the 14 contests that remain, and that means that we are going to be cutting back on staff.”

Likability ratings soar after Cruz picks Fiorina as VP

Surely you don't believe it, but check out Andy Borowitz's report anyway.

INDIANAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report)—In choosing the former Hewlett-Packard C.E.O. Carly Fiorina as his running mate, Senator Ted Cruz hopes to tap into the immense popularity of one of the most beloved public figures in America.

Minutes after the news of Cruz’s selection leaked, political insiders called the choice of the wildly adored Fiorina a game-changer for the Cruz campaign.

[Snip. More here from Andy's satire on reactions to Cruz's choice.]

"Picking Fiorina was a masterstroke,” [a Republican strategist] said. “Now all Ted has to do is sit back and watch Carly do what she does best: make people fall in love her.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Republican AZ legislators blackmail judiciary

Let's start with the definition.

black·mail
ˈblakˌmāl/
noun
noun: blackmail
...
the use of threats or the manipulation of someone's feelings to force them to do something.

Republican legislators are doing something very similar, if not identical in spirit, to blackmail as reported in the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required), "Budget ties court funding to additional Supreme Court justices".

Arizona courts won’t get a million dollars in funding for new probation officers unless Republican legislative leaders get their way and add two new justices to the state Supreme Court under the budget to be introduced today.

The proposal by Republican leadership in the House and Senate ties the $1 million funding increase to the passage of Rep. J.D. Mesnard’s bill that would expand the size of the Supreme Court from five justices to seven, according to budget documents obtained by The Arizona Capitol Times. Those funds would be used to hire 16 new probation officers to serve a growing population on probation – a move court officials argue will help keep more people out of prison, a cost-saving for the state.

Mesnard, R-Chandler, said he opposes holding the probation money hostage on behalf of his bill, HB2537.

Oops. The sponsor of the bill is against the blackmail. So who is doing it and why?

"I don’t agree with that. I made it clear to the leadership in my small group (budget briefing yesterday),” the Chandler Republican said. “I think, in particular, the probation issue is a legitimate, standalone issue.”

The budget includes $500,000 in funding for two new justices, as well as $100,000 for a 1.5-percent judicial pay raise. Both line items are also contingent on the passage of HB2537.

But those funds were the result of negotiations between lawmakers and Arizona’s five current Supreme Court justices, who have been opposed to Mesnard’s effort to expand the court. Mesnard said it was “problematic” that Republican leadership tied his legislation to other funding needs for the court.

Chief Justice Scott Bales told a meeting of the Arizona Judicial Council in March that the court’s five justices unanimously oppose HB2537, at least as a standalone measure. Bales and court officials have negotiated with Mesnard and other lawmakers for more funding for the court, as well as pay increases for themselves and judges in county superior courts and the appellate courts. Judges haven’t received pay raises since 2008.

So the present justices are against HB2537. And that leaves ...

Though Mesnard has argued that expanding the size of the Supreme Court will better allow the court to cope with an increased workload, others have argued the effort is politically motivated and the true aim is to allow Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to place his conservative stamp on the court by appointing two more justices.

Earlier this year, Ducey appointed conservative lawyer Clint Bolick to the Supreme Court.

Mesnard says there is not enough support for HB2537 to pass. The budget doesn’t include as much funding as the justices had pushed for in negotiations, so they’re unlikely to support the bill.

And rank-and-file lawmakers may, like Mesnard, oppose the thought of tying court funding to the bill.

“Absent some changes in the budget items, I doubt there’ll be support there for this issue,” he said. “Let’s just assume that the Supreme Court bill does not move forward, and let’s look at these issues and decide what we want to support or not.”

Let's hope HB2537 exits gracefully stage left.

Prop 123: "There is no step 4,5,6 ..."

"... that will improve funding for our schools."

That's from a comment in Blog for Arizona on Diane Post's excellent report on the history of Prop 123 and its dismal prospects for effecting the real growth in funding for public education mandated by the voters ("No on Prop 123 – not sustainable and not a solution"). The commenter continues, calling Post's report a "... fabulous summation of the beginning & middle of prop 123 and the end of public education."

Before you vote you need go read this one - it is long but comprehensive. If you already have voted, read it anyway to get prepped for the legal battles that will consume more of your tax money - all because we have a criminal element in the legislature hell bent on ignoring the AZ constitution - or reshaping it to fit their own penurious proclivities. Post makes that point and my view of the criminality of what the legislature does not do for education was reprinted in the GV News this morning.

Here is a summary of more views along these lines from AZBlueMeanie.

Harsh words about the AZ budget

AZBueMeanie at Blog for Arizona sums it up: "GOP budget: more corporate welfare, no KidsCare restoration, and a pittance to public education"

The state budget is a witches brew concocted in secret behind closed doors between the governor and GOP legislative leaders, and special interests who are the stakeholders in the annual GOP tax cuts sweepstakes.

Democratic leadership and the rank and file membership of the legislature of both political parties are not included in the secret budget negotiations, and forget about any public input — who cares what you people think?

The authoritarian Tea-Publicans who lord over us treat us all like mushrooms: they keep us in the dark and feed us bullshit. See the Arizona Republic‘s Linda Valdez, Get this GOP: We aren’t mushrooms.

This is in no way “regular order” or a transparent and democratic budget process. The budget is something that should go through a series of committee hearings with public testimony, and be hashed out in public in the open from the earliest days of the legislative session.

It should not be a secret concocted behind closed doors and sprung on the legislature with little or no time to consider the budget. It should not be rushed to a vote at the eleventh hour– while other bad bills are also being rushed through the legislature often under cover of darkness in the dead of night — in the hopes that the public and the media will not notice what is going on before adjourning sine die.

The budget process is Arizona’s shame. It cries out for reform.

Blue Meanie follows on with a summary of what's in, and not in, the witches brew. See also Scriber's post yesterday. Meanie concludes:

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “A budget is a moral document.” This is an immoral budget from the evil GOP bastards in the Arizona legislature and Governor “Il Duce.” It is shameful public policy.

If you think that "evil GOP bastards" is too harsh, let me give you an alternative: heartless buggers.

Or how about an alternative headline: Phouls in Phoenix Feast on the Public Good.

Or a news story: Governor Duce celebrates budget saying morals have no place in government.

Carry on.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Proposed budget: Kids might Care but Dicey and the GOPlins don't

Actually they do care - about businesses and private schools

Here's the rundown on some items in the proposed budget from Howard Fischer in the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required for Scriber - but carried in this morning's Daily Star for my readers).

The Koch Brothers Institutes, aka "economic freedom schools,” get their funding.

University funding would increase by $32 million, though $5 million of that is earmarked for “economic freedom schools,” research centers at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University that don’t produce degrees. ...

K-12 schools would benefit from compromises that scale back cuts in funding proposed by Ducey in January. The benefits would include relief to charter schools, who were set to lose funds due to the elimination of small school weight funding, as well as $600,000 in cuts to district-sponsored charter schools, as opposed to the roughly $1.2 million cut proposed by the governor.

Oh, good on ya, lege. You are only going to cut $600,000 from K-12 charter schools. And this counts as support for public ed because ...?

K-12 schools will still be required to use a new, current year funding model to determine their budget needs – a shift estimated to cost schools roughly $31 million. Yarbrough said the budget includes $15.5 million to the school site fund, which will be distributed to schools to help cover that loss.

Oh, double good on ya. The lege is going to cut only another $15.5 million out of public ed.

The budget also includes tax cuts, as promised by Ducey, who’s vowed to lower taxes each year he’s in office. A package of roughly 10 corporate tax cut measures will eliminate roughly $26 million in state revenues, according to Yarbrough. So is a tax break for Grand Canyon University, a move pushed by Yarbrough since 2014. ...

Yarbrough defended the [tax break for Grand Canyon], which he characterized as a tax break for a school that has invested heavily in development in a part of Phoenix that’s been otherwise unattractive to developers.

And what of the plan to bring funding for Kids Care to a vote?

The budget lacks one crucial item: a restoration of KidsCare, a health insurance program for children of the working poor that state health officials estimate could provide coverage for more than 30,000 Arizona kids. Senate President Andy Biggs has killed a bill that, despite overwhelming support in the House, would use federal dollars to bring back the program, which lawmakers halted as a cost-saving measure during the recession.

Yarbrough said the program is not included in the budget as it will be introduced, and declined to speculate if it may be pushed as an amendment to the budget on the Senate and House floor.

30,710 is the number. The number of kids that will be denied health coverage by the Phouls in Phoenix. I guess they have better plans for how to spend the billion dollar surplus.

One more thing.

... several rank-and-file Republicans, after being briefed on the plan, still grumbled that it doesn’t include enough funding for K-12 schools.

Goes to show ya. The Republican "leaders" do not spit only on Democrats. They show the same disregard to their fellow Republicans.

What can Ducey do to ensure passage of 123? (Besides throw money at it.)

Here's the answer in The Republic/azcentral.com.

Reasons for voting no

The list of reasons people cite in opposing Prop. 123 is long and varied. And even among the initiative's supports, there's a sense that fear is driving many of them: If they don't vote yes, worse can happen. (The iconic National Lampoon cover with the headline, "If You Don't Buy This Magazine, We'll Kill This Dog," comes to mind.)

The biggest of the reasons is distrust — distrust of the Legislature and of Gov. Doug Ducey.

The foes — I suspect largely Democrats, but not all — point out it was state lawmakers who ignored the will of the people on the funding-mechanism of Prop. 301, which led to a lawsuit, which led to the brokered agreement that is Prop. 123.

Which, continuing their logic, would take money from a source (Arizona's Permanent Land Endowment Trust Fund) that's already dedicated to public education and make up less than 80 cents to the dollar in inflation adjustments that schools lost. And which would allow the governor and legislators to wash their hands of the public-education obligation and resume business as usual.

Check out the accompanying post on the proposed budget for some justification of those fears - what Dicey giveth the lege taketh away.

What Ducey should say if he really wants 123 to pass

It is a narrative that Ducey shouldn't simply dismiss. He has said Prop. 123 is a first step. He needs to say more. Now.

Here's what the governor can say or do between now and the May 17 election to help secure Prop. 123's passage and to demonstrate his commitment to schools:

BTW: forget the "say" - it's the "do" that counts.

One: There's other immediate relief to schools coming. The state has an estimated billion dollar surplus after this legislative session, so "Ducey can commit a portion of that to help meet the sorest of Arizona schools' needs." But to do so would reduce his chances of enacting more tax cuts. (Yes, I am one of those who smells mendacity on this one.)

Two: There will be no tax cuts this year, period. Opponents of 123 fear that taking more money from the land trust is a fiscal cover for enacting even more business tax cuts. "We're at a climate now where a majority of Arizonans don't favor more tax cuts, including some in the business community. It is time to invest." Sure it is but follow the money. See what is done in the budget proposed this morning.

Three: We'll suspend efforts to expand vouchers —for now. "Of the many reasons for distrust among opponents of Prop. 123, the push to expand Empowerment Scholarship Accounts is the one I've heard brought up most often. Whatever the motivation or intention, ESAs serve to further a "separate but equal" education doctrine that favors families with money and resources." Eventually the increase in the voucher program will happen. "Empowerment Scholarship Accounts may work in limited circumstances — it would help for Ducey to spell out where those circumstances start and end." Sorry, Bub. There is no end.

Four: I will help identify the money source on state education funding. "Education is the No. 1 priority of Arizona voters, polling has shown. That alone should give lawmakers incentive — and political cover — for finding a way to increase funding." But, come on. When has the lege ever listened to voters. Remember 301?

And finally there is this. "Could Ducey be the education governor?" Ha ha ha ha ha ha ....

Check out the proposed budget to understand what four things that Dicey could do - but probably won't.

Cruz and Kasich play "we hate Trump, we hate him not."

NY Times reported yesterday that Cruz and Kasich reached a deal to stop Trump. But that was yesterday. Today the NY Times is reporting on the deal coming undone. If the Republicans cannot get it together in the face of what many of them consider a threat to their party and ideals, how could they ever unite behind some serious threat like ISIS?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Breaking: Koch Brothers may buy a Democrat

That would be a first for the brothers who have traditionally invested in Republicans, reports Andy Borowitz at the New Yorker.

WICHITA (The Borowitz Report)—Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists who have spent decades acquiring a world-class collection of Republicans, revealed over the weekend that they are considering purchasing their first Democrat.

“We’ve always bought Republicans, and our father bought Republicans before us,” Charles, the elder Koch, said. “They’re bred to be obedient, and they respond to simple commands.”

He said that he and his brother had considered acquiring a Democrat only after determining that none of the Republicans on offer this year was worth adding to their collection.

...

While acknowledging the risk inherent in owning their first Democrat, Koch said that it would probably turn out to be a better investment than some of the Republicans they have recently purchased. “It can’t be worse than Scott Walker,” he said.

For more on the Kochs' thinking, see Andy's report.

A marriage of convenience: "Ted Cruz and John Kasich to Coordinate Against Donald Trump"

Maybe a shotgun engraved with "President Trump" was part of the ceremony. The New York Times reports.

Senator Ted Cruz and Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio have agreed to coordinate in future primary contests in a last-ditch effort to deny Donald J. Trump the Republican presidential nomination, with each candidate standing aside in certain states amid growing concerns that Mr. Trump cannot otherwise be stopped.

In a statement late Sunday night, Mr. Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe, said that the campaign would “focus its time and resources in Indiana and in turn clear the path for Governor Kasich to compete in Oregon and New Mexico.”

Minutes after Mr. Roe’s statement, the Kasich campaign put out a similar message. The Ohio governor’s chief strategist, John Weaver, said that his campaign would shift its resources to states in the West and “give the Cruz campaign a clear path in Indiana.”

Trump responds.

For Mr. Trump, who has argued repeatedly in recent days that Republican leaders are conspiring to stop him as part of a “rigged” nominating system, the new alliance against him could provide further evidence for his argument to his grass-roots supporters.

“Wow,” he wrote on Twitter late Sunday night, “just announced that Lyin’ Ted and Kasich are going to collude in order to keep me from getting the Republican nomination. DESPERATION!”

Now there is something on which I can agree with Trump. It is indeed an act of desperation on the part of the dump Trump branch of the Republican establishment. The question is whether it is too little and too late.

The struggle for the soul of the Democratic party

In an earlier post I suggested that "It would not be an overstatement to say that the 2016 primaries, on both right and left, are contests for the souls of the two main political parties." Nicholas Confessore at the New York Times agrees: "Bernie Sanders and Allies Aim to Shape Democrats’ Agenda After Primaries".

Even as his chances of winning the Democratic presidential nomination slip away, Senator Bernie Sanders and his allies are trying to use his popularity to expand his political influence, setting up an ideological struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party in the post-Obama era.

Aides to Mr. Sanders have been pressing party officials for a significant role in drafting the platform for the Democratic convention in July, aiming to lock in strong planks on issues like a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage, breaking up Wall Street banks and banning natural gas “fracking.”

Hillary Clinton and her allies are in a position to push back hard.

The pressure from Mr. Sanders and his allies is putting the party establishment, which is closely aligned with Hillary Clinton, in a delicate position. Democratic leaders are wary of steering the party too far left, but do not want to alienate the Sanders supporters whose votes Mrs. Clinton needs in November, or risk losing the vast new donor base Mr. Sanders has created.

The institutional bulwarks against Mr. Sanders are significant: Hundreds of the party’s “superdelegates” have endorsed Mrs. Clinton, a signal of her broad support among the party’s power brokers. The Democratic National Committee now relies on Mrs. Clinton’s fund-raising to provide a fifth of its monthly income, an arrangement the Sanders campaign has criticized.

And Mrs. Clinton is well positioned to block any proposals she would not want to defend in a general election. In January, the party chairwoman, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, appointed dozens of Clinton supporters and advisers to the three standing committees of the Democratic Party convention. Of 45 potential members submitted by Mr. Sanders, she appointed just three, according to Mr. Sanders’s campaign.

Regardless of how that plays out, Sanders will wield considerable influence at the convention.

Mr. Sanders is almost certain to win a prime-time speaking slot at the summer convention, providing one of the biggest audiences yet for his views. Some Democrats said they feared a left-wing equivalent of Pat Buchanan’s searing speech at the 1992 Republican convention, when Mr. Buchanan, who had failed to win his party’s nomination, called for a “cultural war” against “liberals and radicals.”

I doubt that Bernie will wage war. He's smarter than that. If you want to reshape the nation, you need a platform from which to operate and that means you need to reshape the Democratic party. Bernie started that process when he entered the presidential race. He's not about to trash his own legacy now.

“A boldly populist, people-oriented type of platform is massively appealing to those who have come of age during the financial meltdown and the period afterward,” said Kurt Walters, the campaign director at Rootstrikers, a group that favors limiting the influence of big donors in politics.

And Clinton needs "those who have come of age" to win the general election. So ...

Luis Miranda, a spokesman for the Democratic National Convention, said the party was “committed to an open, inclusive and representative process” to draft the platform.

“Both of our campaigns will be represented on the drafting committee,” Mr. Miranda said.

For more about the push and pushback playing out as left vs. center-left, see the NYT article.

Canine perspectives on Trump

Scriber's two puppies are not happy at detention when Mr. and Mrs. Scriber are absent from their home. "Make America crate again" will not be a slogan destined to win their votes.

Birth of the Trumpublican party and lots more toons

Hard to pick but here are two of my faves (from AZBlueMeanie's Monday morning toons).

Here is a link to one of them. And here is the other.

 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Republican hijacking of SCOTAZ

The Supreme Court of Arizona, and with it the very structure of democratic government in Arizona, is under attack.

If you are in a rush to get to the links or court or wherever, I will do you the service of providing the short version of where things stand.

The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments provides a list of names to the Governor for appointment to SCOTAZ. The Governor then appoints from that list. The problem? The Governor has control over who sits on that commission and thereby controls which names he gets to choose from.

The bill now before the Legislature would expand the court by two more members. The problem? Said Governor gets to appoint those additional members. (Remember his last appointment was Goldwater Institute guy, Clint Bolick).

The SCOTAZ Chief Justice tried to cut a deal with the Legislature for more funding in exchange for agreeing to the expansion of the Court. The problem? Looks like the Legislature will not go along so the Court might be expanded with no increased funding for the state's judiciary.

As a result of all that, an expanded SCOTAZ would likely be far, far more Republican. The problem? That Court, now reconstituted as a branch of the GOP, would rule on pressing issues. (Think public education lawsuits.)

Read the longer version after the break.

The Republican plan to eliminate public education

Laurie Roberts exposes a great scam being perpetrated in the state's budget: funding for an ASU center the head of which advocates elimination of public education. That's right. And where might you think the center's funding has come from? Sure - the Koch Brothers.

What’s more shocking than our leaders earmarking millions of dollars for “economic freedom schools” while universities have endured the nation’s deepest cuts?

How about earmarking millions of dollars to an “economic freedom school” headed by a guy who wants to eliminate public schools?

I wrote earlier this week about the mysterious $5 million inserted into next year’s proposed state budget for universities. The money is designated specifically for “economic freedom schools”.

One of the three schools that would get the dough: ASU’s Center for the Study of Economic Liberty. The school opened just after Gov. Doug Ducey’s election in 2014, with private funding, including a $3.5 million grant from the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation.

Just coincidentally, I’m sure, the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty has endorsed Ducey’s Proposition 123, to pay part of the state’s K-12 school tab out of the state land trust.

Read more after the break on how the head of that center advocates the elimination - total destruction from K-12 to universities - of public education.

State Treasurer makes case against Prop 123

Here's a video clip if Jeff DeWit making has case for a "no" vote - and what he promises to do if 123 fails.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

How should you vote on Prop 123? Scriber has the answer.

In a word, VOTE.

I get lots of folks seeking my wisdom on how to vote on Prop 123.

Some are confused about what to do. Welcome to the club. Above all else, know that there are compelling arguments on both sides.

Some think I am an expert on Prop 123. Don't believe it.

Some ask me how to vote on 123. Ah! I can be of help.

First of all, search this blog (using the handy search tool) for "123". You will get lots of hits.

Compile a list of facts that you think are most relevant to your decision.

Decide on your vote.

Then pick the facts from your list that seem to best support your decision.

The facts, at least the huge majority of them, are not in dispute. There really is a very large surplus in the state's coffers. The teachers really do need a raise. Duce has promised tax cuts every year from now on. There really are triggers in Prop 123 that allow the Lege to renege on the deal. Etc.

But before you vote, here is one more item to factor into your decision (from AZBlueMeanie on likely litigation): "immediate" is relative. If the vote goes against Prop 123, the schools will not get more money for a long time to come. (Unless we sprinkle pixie dust and the Lege turns Democratic.) If the vote is for Prop 123, lawsuits have been promised that will delay any additional funding promised in 123 for likely quite some time.

After you vote, know this. You will wake up the next morning thinking you should have voted differently. And you will feel slimed by the Governor who gave you Ducey's Choice.

Why Arizona Republican legislators should be treated as criminals

These GOP lawmakers pass laws governing the behavior of the state, its counties, its cities, and its citizens. (Remember the plastic bag laws, the laws about female reproductive decisions?) Those laws become our laws in the sense that you and I and our communities may be charged as criminals, and punished, if the laws are disobeyed. But what law governs the lawmakers? Especially if you are a conservative, or a textualist, you must answer "the constitution". Here is part of that document.

From Article XI of the Arizona state constitution:
Section 10. The revenue for the maintenance of the respective state educational institutions shall be derived from the investment of the proceeds of the sale, and from the rental of such lands as have been set aside by the enabling act approved June 20, 1910, or other legislative enactment of the United States, for the use and benefit of the respective state educational institutions. In addition to such income the legislature shall make such appropriations, to be met by taxation, as shall insure the proper maintenance of all state educational institutions, and shall make such special appropriations as shall provide for their development and improvement.

I submit the GOP legislators, have not used taxation to provide for the "proper maintenance" of Arizona's educational institutions. Having willfully ignored the constitution and, with intent, having evaded doing their duty, these "lawmakers" are actually law breakers. They should be subpoenaed, charged, indicted, tried, convicted, and sentenced just as would be violators of other laws that these lawbreakers themselves pass.

Treating these lawbreakers as common criminals is too much to hope for. But they can be held accountable at the ballot box. Vote on May 17th. Vote on November 8th. Let's throw these arrogant lawbreakers out and vote in people who will obey the constitution and start doing right by our educational institutions.

h/t Linda Valdez at The Republic/azcentral.com.

Fitz: A tale of magic dust and Sorcerer Doozey's magic ax

Doozey chops off his hand believing that the magic will grow seven replacements. He should have listened to his Tinker Bell.

Fill in the details at Fitz's Saturday column.

Trump reinvented as Presidential, all previous remarks to be disregarded

Well, no one said it exactly like that. But Ted Cruz came close. Here are snippets from the AP report in the Daily Star this morning.

The makeover

Standing in a conference room at a swanky South Florida hotel, Donald Trump’s chief adviser assured Republican insiders his boss was ready to tone down his over-the-top persona.

He’s been “projecting an image,” Paul Manafort told the GOP officials. “The part that he’s been playing is now evolving.”

South Carolina GOP chairman Matt Moore attended Manafort’s presentation in Florida, and emerged confident that Trump was prepared to make necessary changes. “He has an opportunity to reinvent himself as a more presidential front-runner for the party. And I hope he does that,” Moore said.

The credibility gap

But Trump’s critics, including rival Ted Cruz, tried to use Manafort’s assertion that he has simply been “playing a part” as an opportunity to undercut the front-runner’s core strength: that he’s authentic to a fault and says what he believes, regardless of the political repercussions.

Speaking to reporters after an event in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Friday, Cruz said Trump’s advisers had “gone down and told Republican Party bosses that everything Donald has said on the campaign is just a show, he doesn’t believe any of it.”

What Trump should know

If you are out on a limb, don't saw off the limb.

Apparently he knows.

“I just don’t know if I want to do it yet,” Trump said Thursday as supporters roared with approval. Ever the entertainer, he said that acting more presidential would leave his audiences “bored,” and that instead of drawing thousands, “I’ll have 150 people.”

The comments by Trump and new aide Manafort underscore a central tension surging through the Republican front-runner’s campaign.

Even as he builds a more professional operation, the billionaire businessman appears — at least for now — unable or unwilling to dial back the free-wheeling brashness that has both energized his millions of supporters and turned off millions of other Americans.

Trump is OK with M2F transgendered people, just not OK with women

Reinvent that, Mr. Trump.

Can we infer from Andy Borowitz's report that Trump is still down on women but M2F people are OK because they are really men? Read on.

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—After rattling many of his supporters by expressing tolerance toward transgender people, the Republican front-runner Donald J. Trump clarified on Friday that he still opposes women who were born women.

“The media has, per usual, tried to blow my words out of proportion,” Trump said on the Fox News Channel. “Just because I happen to think transgender people deserve our understanding in no way means that I feel that way about women who were born women.”

Trump said that any attempt to twist his words to apply to “women in general” was deeply offensive to him. “I have made my views about women very clear and to suggest that I have somehow changed those views is really, really hurtful,” he said.

Across the nation, Trump supporters who had been alarmed that the candidate had seemingly strayed into something resembling empathy were greatly relieved by his clarification.

END SATIRE. I figured you would appreciate a little humor today from Andy Borowitz at the New Yorker.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Prop 123: "a pretend choice"

That's what Linda Valdez calls it in her column in The Republic / azcentral.com, "Prop. 123's real choice - a gun or a cliff". Here it is - as a bit of counterpoint to yesterday's posts in this blog.

Valdez starts with the choices we should be making.

Voters don’t have a choice in the special election on Proposition 123.

There is no option that says: “Use the budget surplus to fund education.”

There is no option that says: “Increase sales tax to fund education.”

There is no option that says: “Divert corporate tax cuts to fund education.”

This election is about being marched to the edge of the cliff with a gun to your head.

Either way, schools lose.

If this fails, GOP will say we don't care about schools

If you approve Proposition 123, you agree to tap the schools’ own trust fund to repay money lawmakers illegally withheld from schools, and you amend the state Constitution to keep our schools in the funding bargain basement.

If you reject Proposition 123, you leave our schools without desperately needed money.

Make no mistake: if voters reject Proposition 123, GOP politicians will use it against the public schools. They will insist Arizonans don’t want to fund education.

For Pete’s sake, they say that now – despite the fact that voters have repeatedly approved raising taxes for education.

Imagine the mischief they’ll make if this measure gets voted down.

Yet I can’t vote for Proposition 123.

But don't discount this: We're changing the constitution

It’s not just the unmitigated nerve of using the kids’ money to repay a debt to kids.

What bothers me most is changing the constitution to say if the cost of K-12 reaches 50 percent of the state budget our lawmakers can forget funding inflation that year and actually “reduce the base level” funding for K-12.

Schools currently make up 42 percent of the total budget in Arizona, a state where the ruling Republican Party is working to reduce the overall size of government. A cap on education funding is a dangerous thing.

All the TeaPublicans have to do is the keep reducing government in other areas and that cap will creep down on education.

Daniel G. Thatcher of the National Conference of State Legislatures says he’s unaware of such caps in any other state. A spread sheet he provided of K-12 expenditures in fiscal 2015 shows three states – Alabama, Indiana and Kansas – spent more than 50 percent of their general fund on education that year.

Arizona was among 16 states that spent between 40 and 49 percent.

Education is expensive.

Capping how much we can spend on our kids’ schools is a grotesque departure from the spirit of Article XI, section 10 of Arizona’s Constitution.

It says “the Legislature shall make such appropriations, to be met by taxation, as shall insure the proper maintenance of all state educational institutions . . . “

To be met by taxation. No caps.

There are better choices, if 'leaders' will make them

Instead of following the state Constitution -- and the previously expressed will of the voters -- Arizona’s ruling Republican Party is telling you: “Take this bad deal or get nothing.”

What’s more, Proposition 123 will create a second steep drop in funding before today’s kindergartners graduate.

The payout from Proposition 123 – the big $3.5 billion over 10 years – is temporary. In 2025, it’s over.

That comes a few years after the six-tenths of a cent sales tax for education that voters approved in 2000 ends in 2021.

If Arizona’s “leaders” want to give people a choice about education funding, they should be offering a ballot measure to extend that six-tenths sales tax.

If Arizona’s “leaders” want to give people a say in how we fund education, there should be real choices on the May 17 ballot.

Instead there is a pretend choice. The gun or the cliff.

Take your pick.

Or get serious and vote the lawless TeaPublicans out of office.

What continues to gnaw at me is this:

Capping how much we can spend on our kids’ schools is a grotesque departure from the spirit of Article XI, section 10 of Arizona’s Constitution.

It says “the Legislature shall make such appropriations, to be met by taxation, as shall insure the proper maintenance of all state educational institutions . . . “

To be met by taxation. No caps.

To vote "yes" on Prop 123, albeit unintended, puts one in alignment with the group of lawbreakers masquerading as a Legislature.

Silly law-breaking Legislators. They didn't need Prop 123. All they had to do was amend the state consitution to get rid of that pesky item highlighted above in bold print.

Prop 123: It's about trust and crap sandwiches

And we're not talking here about the land trust. Prop 123 highlights a lack of trust in our state leaders - specifically the dictator the people elected, Il Duce (sometimes known as Gov. Doug Ducey) and the biomass of law breakers (sometimes known as lawmakers). I'll get back to crap sandwiches in a bit.

Trust. It's a precious commodity that has been squandered by a Governor who offers a false choice, Ducey's Choice, and by the lawless legislators who act in direct opposition to the AZ constitution when they withhold funds from public education. The Arizona Republic amazingly thinks that they can trust Dicey Ducey. Here's what AZBlueMeanie thinks about that.

The Arizona Republic fka The Arizona Republican did its best to support Doug Ducey, the ice cream man hired by Koch Industries to run their Southwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Arizona, with a back-handed endorsement of Prop. 123. Prop. 123 isn’t a bad deal – it’s a good start:

Voters who support Proposition 123 should do so with the expectation that Ducey will aggressively push for additional funding for our schools. They should be prepared to demand it in no uncertain terms.

So vote yes and hope that the man who slashed education funding in his first budget, and the man who has not yet revealed the budget for this year being negotiated in secret behind closed doors with the GOP leadership, is suddenly going to have a Saul on the road to Damascus conversion (Acts 9:1-19) to becoming the champion of public education funding?

That’s asking for blind faith in a man who has demonstrated time and again that he is unworthy of such blind faith and trust.

The Blue Meanie covers the opinions voiced by other of The Republic's editorial writers: Montini, Valdez (see post here - Prop 123: "a pretend choice"), and Diaz.

There is one thread that holds all of these opinions together: “hold them accountable.”

Yet Arizona voters have failed to do so. Republican leaning voters vote out of tribalism for anyone with an “(R)” behind their name on the ballot, with no thought to the consequences. They are recklessly irresponsible.

Even worse, the majority of Arizonans did not even vote in the 2014 election. Among the worst performing voter demographic: teachers, the very public servants being systematically abused by our lawless Tea-Publican legislature.

Yet teachers are so desperate for any crumbs to fall from the GOP table that they are now making ads for Prop. 123: “Please help. We’re starving.” It is Stockholm Syndrome, identifying with their abusers. I pity them.

There is only one real answer: a wholesale house cleaning of the lawless Tea-Publican legislators responsible for this crime. Hold them accountable for their crime, and elect a Democratic state legislature in November.

This will give a Democratic state legislature am indisputable voter mandate — Republicans have controlled the Arizona legislature for the past 50 years — a mandate to settle the lawsuit on more favorable terms to the school districts, and to adequately fund public education as the Arizona Constitution commands, by raising taxes if necessary. The only thing standing in the way of doing right by our children are the lawless Tea-Publicans in the Arizona legislature (and those who aid and abet them). Governor Ducey would be rendered a lame duck.

You, the voters of this state, have in your hands the power to hold these lawless criminals accountable for their crime, if only you would exercise your vote to do so. Do it for our children’s future. Elect a Democratic legislature in November.

All true, but this brings us to the last item about trust. Does anyone trust an electorate that does not vote to do the right thing?

Actually I do trust the legislature and the Guv. I trust that they will continue to say to public education and our children: Let them eat crap.

A different view of the other view: Trumpism and Clintonism as the future?

Not necessarily, according to this piece in Salon.com by Conor Lynch.

In a recent New York Times essay (see Scriber's coverage yesterday), Michael Lind makes some observations about the future of American politics that will no doubt leave many readers feeling depressed and uneasy. Specifically, Lind posits that Trumpism represents the future of the Republican party and Clintonism the future of the Democratic party.

What Lind predicts

... Lind’s conclusion that Trumpism is the future of the Republican party may very well be correct, and it is ultimately the GOP establishment’s fault for exploiting and enabling cultural resentments. The fact that America is becoming increasingly liberal on social issues does not bode well for this brand of Republicanism in the future — which is why the establishment is so horrified of Trump.

On the other hand, Lind’s other premise — that the corporate-friendly politics of Clinton will triumph over Sanders’ economic progressivism — bears closer scrutiny.

“Many Democrats hope that the long-term growth of the Obama coalition, caused chiefly by the growth of the Latino share of the electorate, will create an all but inevitable Democratic majority in the executive branch and perhaps eventually in the government as a whole,” writes Lind. “The Clintonian synthesis of pro-business, finance-friendly economics with social and racial liberalism no longer needs to be diluted, as it was in the 1990s, by opportunistic appeals to working-class white voters.

“The centrality of identity politics, rather than progressive economics, to the contemporary Democratic Party is nothing new,” he continues. “The pro-Sanders left objects to the solicitude of the Democratic Party for Wall Street and Silicon Valley, the sources of much of its funding. But it is safe to assume that most progressives, when confronted with conservative candidates, will prefer incremental, finance-friendly Clintonism over the right-wing alternative.”

The other view of the other view: It's the economy ...

There is something strikingly absent from Lind’s analysis, and it is quite detrimental to his argument about the Democrats: The economy. Reading his piece, one who didn’t know any better might just assume that America’s economic situation has hardly changed over the past several decades. Of course, it has changed tremendously. When the major party realignments began in the 1970s, economic inequality was near all-time lows; today, it has returned to historic pre-Depression levels.

In the early ’70s, the top one percent of income earners took in about 8.9 percent of the nations income; by 2013, that number had nearly tripled to 21.2 percent. This skyrocketing inequality is largely a result of stagnating wages for the majority of Americans and ballooning compensation for executives. During the Keynesian era (1930s-1975), wages generally increased proportionately with productivity, but since the early ’70s, compensation has remained flat, even as productivity continued to steadily increase.

Even more staggering than America’s income inequality is its wealth inequality. Today, the top one percent owns more of the nation’s wealth than the bottom 90 percent. (The bottom 40 percent, meanwhile, owns virtually nothing.) People of color are impacted the most by this inequality. As of 2015, for example, the richest 400 people in America (who are mostly white men) are worth more than all 16 million black households combined (and 15 million latino households combined); harrowing but unsurprising statistics. Moreover, the average white family holds about 7 times the wealth of the average black family — a disparity that has actually increased over the past two decades.

...

The neoliberal status quo that Clintonism represents has made the United States one of the most unequal nations in the world, leaving millions of children in deep poverty and transforming America into the “worlds largest jailer” (because in many parts of America, poverty is virtually a crime). Economic inequality is not going away, especially if economic centrists like Clinton continue capitulating to Republican extremism and special interests. The Democratic party’s diverse base signals a bright future — but to expect this base, made up largely of people of color who are disproportionately effected by economic inequality, to continue to accept corporate-friendly centrism, seems arrogant and politically imprudent.

The pitchforks are still out there and Sanders is not quitting. It would not be an overstatement to say that the 2016 primaries, on both right and left, are contests for the souls of the two main political parties.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

From the Real Good News department: SCOTUS unanimously upholds AZ redistricting maps

The word that gets my hear thumping is "unanimously." Yes, that includes Clarence Thomas and John Roberts and Samuel Alito, none of whom are exactly flaming liberals. Perhaps now the GOPlins in the AZ Idioture (aka Phouls in Phoenix) can do something useful like fund K-12 at the mandated levels, or get real about infrastructure investment, or fund Kids Care.

Or not. There is always political room for the Phouls to declare that the lawless highest court of the land is guilty of federal government overreach. Wait for it.

Read the story in the Tucson Sentinel or over at Blog for Arizona. Here are a couple of observations from the Blue Meanie.

I have said from the beginning that this case was without legal merit based upon existing Supreme Court precedents. The Court’s opinion agrees with my earlier legal analysis on every point.

Media coverage of this case over the years has been largely limited to “Republicans say . . .” as if what they said had any merit; it did not. This created a false sense among GOP partisans that they had a legitimate claim. They did not. This is a failure of the media in giving credence to both sides even when one side clearly has no credible basis for what they say. The law is what it is. That is how this frivolous lawsuit should have been reported.

More Prop 123 in the news: the grudging case for "yes"

Every time I wade into Prop 123 I walk away feeling slimed. Our good Guv has arranged Ducey's Choice so that no matter how each of us votes in the special election, we are doomed to wake up feeling a little, or a lot, slimed.

UPDATE: Steve Farley in his Farley Report yesterday has a lengthy rebuttal to the reasons to vote against, and well reasoned case for voting for Prop 123. Here is the link.

Continuing with my original post ...

We all know, or should know, as Blake Morlock writes in the Tucson Sentinel, that Prop 123 is all about tax cuts, not doing right by pubic education.

Prop. 123 opponents say — nay, demand — the right way to fix the school funding gap would be to raise taxes on the wealthy and tap the state's $600 million budget surplus. Tax cuts can wait. Prop. 123 is just an effort to protect tax cuts.

[Guffaws here.] What Legislative dreamland did they wake up in? Of course this is all about tax cuts.

Let me put it clearly and concisely: This is the deal you get when you lose over and over and over and over. If we are to wait to address school funding until public school advocates win, remember these are the same leaders who have lost over and over and over and over.

After a lot of rehash of the facts, here is how Morlock winds up.

Here's the offer on the table: Take the money and beat 'em later or reject the money and beat 'em later. Taking the money gets Arizona $300 million a year closer to closing its gap with higher ups among the cellar dwellers. If you can't beat 'em later, saying no doesn't make any sense. If you can beat 'em later, accepting the money gives Arizona a head start.

Either way, taking the money doesn't preclude liberals from beating Ducey later if his clarion call for more but insufficient school funding is a one-off.

Prop. 123 opponents argue Ducey is only trying to look like he's doing something about lifting schools out of poverty. The ballot drive exists only for the purposes of a 30-second spot in 2018 espousing his pro-kids bonafides.

So? Here's a competing approach: Failure.

If education advocates know damn well that the Ducey's plan will fail to address the school funding issue and somehow think that's a problem for the Left. If fighters for school funding know Ducey is going to fail, where's the downside in taking the money and letting him fail?

Sigh. I admit I feel a bit like I am talking the generals out of building the Maginot Line prior to 1940. The opposition won't bend or break but could lose for winning. Rejecting the money in the name of reordering Arizona into Vermont could score a victory today that dooms more kids to Arizona's impoverished schools.

The "No" crowd should fix its attention on "Yes" votes. How are they going to win the Legislature for the first time in 50 years? They are two and five in the last seven gubernatorial races and haven't beaten a sitting Republican governor since John Calhoun Phillips in 1930.

They are going to need constitutional amendments of their own and funding packages. A real solution — a tax hike after 25 years of cuts — would require either a voter-approved tax hike, a two-thirds vote in the Legislature paired with riding wooly mammoths down Central Avenue in Phoenix — or a ballot initiative to change the super-majority requirement for taxes relating to schools.

If Team Schools can't win those races, there is zero glory in beating Prop. 123. If they can win, then Prop. 123 is a head start that can be fixed later.

One thing I know about the opposition: None of them have math homework due tomorrow. So it's easy to make martyrs of kids today in the name of a better future that may never come.

Fred Duval has endorsed Prop 123

From his email letter:

To those who oppose Prop 123 I applaud your aspiration for more investment. But I ask you: Do we expect teachers who have gone 6, 7 or 8 years without a pay raise to hang in there while we wait for the Legislature to pass a better deal? Or to retire on their 2008 based pension? Do we gamble away more years on the prospect of electing a more pro-education legislature? Do we tell the students who haven't seen new investments in their schools for years that they should wait a few more years while the adults fight it out in court?

What scenario realistically gets you to a better deal in the next year, or two or three? Is there a viable ballot initiative? Will there be a historic-level change in legislative race outcomes? No.

From the announcement of his endorsement in the Daily Star:

Democrat Fred DuVal said Wednesday he believes he was the better choice for governor in 2014. “Doug’s priority is to lower taxes for the wealthiest among us,” DuVal said. “My priority is to assure that we adequately fund schools.”

But you know who the voters picked. Does anyone think Dems will take either chamber of the AZ legislature anytime soon? Or both? Is there a "repeal Prop 108" on the ballot?

The bottom line is that kids do not vote so they get screwed by AZ voters and lawmakers over and over and over.

Trust me on this: no matter how you vote, you will wake up the next morning feeling slimed.

In my book Fred Duval is one of the good guys but even good guys are not slime-proof.

Other views: "Trumpism and Clintonism Are the Future"

Following are selected snippets from Michael Lind's essay in the NY Times Campaign Stops series (April 16th). (h/t Michele Manos)

As long as my post is, it does not do justice to Lind's analysis. You need to read the whole essay for the reasoning behind Lind's positions and observations summarized here.

No matter who wins the New York primaries on Tuesday or which candidates end up as the presidential nominees of the two major parties, one thing is already clear: Trumpism represents the future of the Republicans and Clintonism the future of the Democrats.

Those who see the nationalist populism of Mr. Trump as an aberration in a party that will soon return to free-market, limited government orthodoxy are mistaken. So are those who believe that the appeal of Senator Bernie Sanders to the young represents a repudiation of the center-left synthesis shared by Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. In one form or another, Trumpism and Clintonism will define conservatism and progressivism in America.

This may turn out to be the most turbulent election year since 1968, but the source of the turbulence is different. The presidential election of 1968 was a milestone in partisan realignment — the breakup of the mid-20th-century Democrats and Republicans and the reshuffling of voter blocs among the two parties. In 2016, this half-century process of partisan realignment is all but complete. What we are seeing instead of partisan realignment is policy realignment — the adjustment of what each party stands for to its existing voter base.

Trumpism

Whatever becomes of his bid for the presidency, Mr. Trump exposed the gap between what orthodox conservative Republicans offer and what today’s dominant Republican voters actually want — middle-class entitlements plus crackdowns on illegal immigrants, Muslims, foreign trade rivals and free-riding allies. Other candidates less flawed than Mr. Trump and more acceptable to the Republican establishment, like Ted Cruz, are likely to bring Republican policy positions and Republican voter preferences more closely into alignment, by moving somewhat to the left on middle-class entitlements and somewhat to the right on immigration and trade.

Clintonism

A similar process of policy realignment is underway among the Democrats. But notwithstanding the enthusiasm of the young for Bernie Sanders, the major tension is not between Mr. Sanders and Hillary Clinton. It is between Hillary Clinton and the legacy of Bill Clinton.

This realignment within the Democratic Party requires Hillary Clinton to distance herself from many of the policies of her husband’s administration and to adopt policies favored by her party’s core constituencies. On issues from criminal justice to immigration enforcement, that is precisely what she has done. Even if she had not been challenged by Mr. Sanders, she probably would have done this anyway, because with the departure of the Reagan Democrats, the Democratic coalition has shifted to the left.

Democratic socialism?

The centrality of identity politics, rather than progressive economics, to the contemporary Democratic Party is nothing new. In 1982, the Democratic National Committee recognized seven official caucuses: women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, gays, liberals and business/professionals. Thirty-four years later, this is the base of the Democratic Party of Hillary Clinton. The pro-Sanders left objects to the solicitude of the Democratic Party for Wall Street and Silicon Valley, the sources of much of its funding. But it is safe to assume that most progressives, when confronted with conservative candidates, will prefer incremental, finance-friendly Clintonism over the right-wing alternative. Moreover, the ability or even willingness of Mr. Sanders to help down-ballot or state candidates is doubtful. The next generation of Democrats are figures like Julian and Joaquin Castro and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who are much more in the mold of the Clintons and Mr. Obama than of the maverick outsider Bernie Sanders.

Most important of all, it would be a serious mistake to assume that the growing sympathy of many of today’s millennials for the concept of democratic socialism as embodied by Mr. Sanders will translate into a social democratic America in the 2030s or 2050s. Half a century ago, as the Age of Aquarius gave way to the Age of Reagan, many of the hippies of the ’60s became, in effect, the yuppies of the ’80s — still socially liberal, but with new concerns about government spending, now that they were paying taxes and mortgages.

Gone for good?

For all of these reasons, it is likely that the future of the Democrats will be Clintonism — Hillary Clintonism, that is, a slightly more progressive version of neoliberalism freed of the strategic concessions to white working-class voters associated with Bill Clintonism. On the other side of the aisle, it is probably only a matter of time before the conflict between elite libertarianism and the populism of the voters in the Republican Party is resolved more or less in favor of the voters, by a new orthodoxy that moves left on entitlements and right on immigration, while eschewing Mr. Trump’s inflammatory approach.

In the larger perspective of history, 2016 proves that Roosevelt Democrats and Rockefeller Republicans are gone for good. Clinton Democrats and Trump Republicans are here to stay.

Scriber concludes

I know that many of you will find fault with Lind's analysis and I welcome your counterpoints. But even if Lind is right, Bernie Sanders has a role to play in the remaining months before the election and that is to push Clinton even further to the left. See my post on this from yesterday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sanders' options: Be a negative technocrat or be the progressive power broker

Jeet Heer at the New Republic explains the choices facing Bernie in the face of the loss of the New York primary.

While the loss in the New York doesn’t mark the end of Sanders’s campaign, his odds of winning became much longer. Upcoming delegate-rich states like Pennsylvania and Maryland favor Clinton. On Tuesday night, Sanders consultant Tad Devine said that after the next Tuesday’s primaries in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, the campaign will “assess where we are.”

Scriber thinks Heer is correct in his assessment of the likely decisions Bernie's campaign will face.

... Sanders has to decide when he will make the pivot from an aggressive outsider who’s trying to take down the frontrunner to a loyal party member who will support the winner.

Stay negative and look like a spoiler

If Sanders stays negative as his chances of winning dwindle, he’ll burn bridges and be shut out of the party. By further damaging Clinton ahead of the general election, he runs the risk of being seen as a Ralph Nader–like spoiler.

The case for staying negative is that Sanders can highlight genuine problems with the primary system, which is plagued by arbitrary rules. The hurdles the New York Democratic Party has placed on voting go against the larger arguments the party makes about the importance of voting rights in general elections. Given Sanders’s long time as an independent rather than a Democrat, it might be easier for him to return to the role of the prophet in the wilderness castigating the system.

But this seems like tinkering around the edges. Bernie did not run to be relegated to a position as a party technocrat.

Go positive: Work the convention to move the party leftward

... as he himself notes, Sanders’s years in politics have also shown him to be someone who knows how to work with others and push forward a positive agenda. Given that a strong minority in the party love him, he is in a position to leverage his campaign to be a real power broker in the party and push the Clinton campaign to the left.

Sanders has been a surprise contender, and it’s easy to engage in might-have-beens or alternative history scenarios. But a healthier way to think about the Sanders campaign is in terms of what it bodes for the future. He has proven there is a large space to the left of Clinton in the Democratic Party. In the future, his electoral weak spots could be addressed by a candidate who has a similar message but pitches it to a broader audience. The Achilles heel of his campaign has been Southern blacks. But there is not intuitive reason why this group should be immune to a message of economic populism. Indeed, Jesse Jackson showed in 1988 that it could be done.

The Sanders campaign should be seen not as a failed gambit but as a road map to the future of the Democratic Party. If a candidate can combine Sanders’s economic populism with the ability to articulate that message in the South, then [that] future will belong Sanders, and Clinton’s triumph will be seen as the last gasp of the centrism that dominated the party in the long aftermath of Reaganism.

Early on, Sanders noted that he was in the race to change the conversation. Scriber hopes that Sanders and his supporters will remember that. Bernie has already changed the conversation and can now wield considerable influence to change it further. That's not a loss. That would be a big win for the Democratic party and a return to the party of the New Deal. And that would be a very big deal indeed.