Sunday, April 22, 2018

Election watch - in new poll Sinema wins against each Republican candidate

Larry Bodine (Blog for Arizona) reports the latest poll on the Arizona Senate race to replace Sen. Jeff Flake: New Poll: Sinema Beats McSally, Ward or Arpaio in US Senate Race.

Regardless who the Republicans choose as their candidate for the Arizona US Senate seat, a new poll shows Democratic Congress member Kyrsten Sinema winning against them.

The survey by OH Predictive Insights and ABC15 says that the key reason is independent voters, who have a very negative view of GOP leader President Trump, and the negative view that voters in general have of Republicans Kelli Ward, Joe Arpaio, and Martha McSally.

And this is despite the 12% advantage that the GOP has (1,223,219 registered Republicans) over Democrats (1,090,310 registered Democrats) in Arizona. The survey sample reflected the Republican +12-point advantage over Democrats.

The poll finds that if the primary were held today, Kelly Ward would win the Republican nomination with 36% of the votes, compared with 27% of the votes for McSally and 22% of the votes for Arpaio.

But no matter. Sinema wins against any of the three GOP/Trumpist candidates.

  • Arpaio, 59% to 33%
  • McSally, 48% vs. 42%
  • Ward, 50% to 40%

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Can you hear us now?

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

Many questions remain unanswered about how Governor Ducey intends to fund his $648 million school funding plan which would provide a 20% bump to teachers by the 2020 school year and give schools $100 million for discretionary “additional assistance” next year. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) however, projects the state will face a $265 million cash shortfall in FY20 and $302 million by FY21. Not surprisingly I suppose, the Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning & Budgeting (OSPB), paints a rosier picture based upon “changing economic fundamentals.” They “note higher than expected job growth, and manufacturing growth that has accelerated to levels last seen before the Great Recession.”

Legislative Democrats however, aren’t buying the sustainability of the Governor’s plan and want it to be funded at least partly, with a tax increase. They also want to be brought to the table so consensus can be built. Gubernatorial candidate Steve Farley struck a moderate tone by saying “I’m willing to work with Doug Ducey. I’m running against him, but I want to get things done. We have an opportunity here that shouldn’t be missed."

For some time now, education groups have been working on developing that opportunity with a couple of potential ballot measures. AEA favored an increase to income tax for high earners, while other education groups favored raising the Prop. 301 sales tax to a full cent, though they worried about the regressive nature of sales tax so they discussed options to mitigate. Now it appears, those potential solutions may have been sidelined.

I personally agree with The Republic editorial columnist Abe Kwok who thinks a ballot initiative for an education-dedicated tax versus a strike would have been the best way forward. Kwok writes, “It has the infrastructure: Tens of thousands of teachers [and coalitions such as AZ PTA and SOS AZ] who can mobilize and excite voters. It has the backing” [education supporters and business leaders]. And, “It has the motivation: Democrats simply don’t trust the Legislature.”

Be all that as it may, it looks like Governor Ducey may have preempted any such voter initiative with his proposed plan. Now, the statewide teacher walk out, set to start next Thursday, is the focus and all parties are scrambling to prepare. Superintendents across the state are polling their teachers to determine whether or not schools can be kept open, letters are being sent home to parents advising them to prepare for school closures, and a variety of efforts are underway to care for students in schools and in communities, even if instruction can’t occur. Phoenix’s 12News.com reports that Mesa Public Schools, with over 60,000 students, has announced it will close it’s schools for the duration of the walkout. And according to the AZ Daily Star, several charter schools in the Tucson area joined districts schools in voting for a walkout, and closures of those schools would be determined on a school-by-school basis.

Governor Ducey is also focused on teachers and schools, vetoing 10 bills yesterday, without regard to merit. According to The Republic, his veto message was, "Please send me a budget that gives teachers a 20 percent pay raise by 2020 and restores additional (school district) assistance. Ducey’s move came after his chief of staff, Kirk Adams, reported no progress following a 15 minute meeting with Republican House members.

For their part, GOP lawmakers share concerns about funding sustainability, citing doubt in whether revenue will plus-up enough from the “booming economy.” In addition, some apparently don’t want the money to go directly to teachers, but instead to school boards. State Senator Rick Gray, said “We don’t want to try and take the governing board’s job away from them, while Senator Sonny Borrelli, said he was ”uneasy micromanaging political subdivisions.“ State Representative Anthony Kern said that ”a majority of the Republican caucus do not want to be in the business of dictating teacher pay."

Call me cynical, but I believe this sentiment has more to do with falling in line with a recently released Goldwater Institute memo than it does preserving local control. (A memo, which in my opinion, was designed to deflect blame for the school funding crises away from our Legislature and unfairly place it squarely on the backs of school boards.)

But, our GOP-led Legislature has proven time and again that they don’t value local control for our communities. They have consistently attacked local control for our communities and school boards, outlawing local decisions such as Bisbee’s plastic bag ban, Tucson’s melting of confiscated guns, Tempe’s dark money ban, and countless attempts (some successful) to curb school boards’ local control.

Even if the Legislature gets Ducey what he wants though, Arizona Educators United (AEU) and the Arizona Education Association (AEA) say they agree with the JLBC that his plan is not sustainable and that they’ll walkout unless they get: - A system of future raises; - No new tax cuts until state funding per student reaches the national average; - Overall funding restore to 2008 levels; and - Competitive pay for all education professionals, meaning support staff like counselors, reading specialists, lunchroom aides and custodians not currently included in Ducey’s plan.

Ducey’s spokesperson, Daniel Scarpinato, said the Governor is “willing to meet with anyone who’s interested in solutions”, but so far, that hasn’t included representatives from AEU and AEA. Some speculate that AEA’s endorsement of Ducey’s Democratic opponent in the Governor’s race, David Garcia, is part of the reason. And although Ducey is touting support from the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) and other groups such as the Arizona Association of School Business Officials (AASBO) and Arizona Superintendents Association (ASA), these groups see their role as negotiating with Ducey and the Legislature for a better result and to ensure his plan is implementable by school districts. For example, ASBA has secured the commitment of the governor’s office that there will be no changes in eligibility for Medicaid/AHCCCS to fund his plan, saying they would not support such a funding source. And in a statement to its members, ASBA wrote, “dueling analyses (of JLBC and OSPB) ASBA seem to demonstrate the state does not actually have enough revenue to support all the priorities the public deems a priority long-term. This may lead to a discussion about future revenue sources for K–12, which has been a core plank of ASBA’s political agenda. We would welcome such a discussion.”

It is clear that there are many different approaches to achieving a goal that all seem to now agree on - Arizona’s teachers must be more adequately compensated. After all, teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions. That in itself, is no small achievement. But, if we can’t deliver on that goal, it doesn’t matter how much we agree.

A major stumbling block to “peaceful” resolution is obviously the lack of trust the public education community has in Governor Ducey. As Laurie Roberts, of The Republic, writes, “Ducey didn’t create the crisis in Arizona’s public schools. But in the first three years and three months of his four-year term, he didn’t do anything to fix it. Didn’t recognize that while he and his pals were focused on ways to boost private schools, the public schools – the ones attended by 95% of Arizona’s children – were suffering.” Roberts goes on to say that, #20by2020 (Ducey’s plan) may make for a “trendy hashtag”, but teachers know the funding for Arizona’s public schools is still almost one billion below where it was in 2008 when inflation is considered. And that doesn’t even include the billions in capital funding the state has withheld. The result Roberts says, “is 25-year-old biology books and roofs that leak. The result is rodents running amok and schools unable to afford toilet paper.” The result is a set of poorly paid teachers and support staff who are tired of being ignored and are now shouting “Can you hear us now?”

This next week is going to be a cliff-hanger for our entire state. One thing is fairly certain. If Governor Ducey and our GOP-led Legislature hasn’t yet adequately “heard” our teachers and other education advocates, incoming shouts from all corners of our state, will no doubt drown out their ability to focus on much else. This issue isn’t going away and our lawmakers better start thinking outside the box they’ve cornered themselves in.

I want $130,000 too

In case you missed it, back in February Millions of Americans Demand $130,000 for Not Having Sex with Trump reported the New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Millions of Americans … demanded that Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, issue them checks in the amount of $130,000 for not having sex with Trump.

After Cohen revealed that he had issued such a check to Stormy Daniels, a porn star who he claims never had intimate relations with his client, there was widespread outrage among other Americans who had also not had sex with Trump but had not been paid for not doing so.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for Stormy Daniels,” Tracy Klugian, a florist in Santa Rosa, California, said. “I just want my check, too.”

Harland Dorrinson, a bank teller in Akron, Ohio, said that he had already e-mailed Cohen to demand payment. “I have never come close to having sex with Trump, and that should be worth something,” he said. “Specifically, $130,000.”

But, even as millions of Americans clamored to be compensated for abstaining from sex with Cohen’s client, others, like Carol Foyler, of Tallahassee, Florida, took a different view. “Never having sex with Donald Trump should be a reward in itself,” she said.

When the judgement of History is rendered, I figure that those who are so supportive of Trump are headed to a special place in Hell. But not having sex with him does not guarantee a special place in Heaven. The overwhelming majority of Scriber’s Usually Unreliable Sources are exercising their more worldly option: the $130K.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Abortion fights cost AZ $2.32 million, anti-abortion legislators Yee and Lesko run for high office

Late last year the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reported that Court losses piling up for anti-abortion legislation, cost state millions. You know from the headline that the focus was on the repeated losses incurred by Arizona because of the numerous attempts by the GOPlins in the state legislature to restrict or even outright ban abortion. Those attempts generally failed, being ruled unconstitutional, and then the state had to cough up the bucks for legal fees.

The state of Arizona has been ordered to pay roughly $2.2 million in legal fees in the past eight years to organizations that challenge restrictive abortion laws adopted by the Republican-controlled state Legislature.

Some of those court orders are more than a decade in the making, like a challenge to a 1999 law with sweeping regulations of abortion providers that was finally settled in 2010, to a more recent case dealing with questionable medical advice the state required physicians to give to patients seeking medication abortions, for which a U.S. District Court judge ruled in August the state must cough up more than $600,000 in attorneys’ fees.

Just this week, the state and Planned Parenthood of Arizona settled the case for a sum of $550,000 in attorney fees.

Those court ordered payments, the result of five cases the state has either lost, settled or been nullified by legislative repeal, don’t include the costs to the Attorney General’s Office, which spent more than 3,300 hours and an estimated $173,500 defending the state in four such cases, according to an analysis of expense records and time sheets provided by the attorney general.

All told, that’s roughly $2.32 million spent defending laws that legislators were warned may not pass muster in court.

Why keep doing this?

That’s on Republican legislators, who either don’t accept that they can’t regulate abortion to the degree they seek, or worse, said Jodi Liggett, vice president of public affairs with Planned Parenthood of Arizona.

“The less charitable view is that they understand perfectly that these are unconstitutional bills, they’re being advised that, and candidly, it’s a form of harassment,” Liggett said. “To make us go down there, spend money on lobbyists trying to stop things and then spend money on attorneys trying to stop them in court. So I think there’s a bit of burnishing their cred with the Center for Arizona Policy, or just as ‘pro-life’ legislators.”

That Center for Arizona Policy (CAP for short), and its president Cathi Herrod, is the driving force. And that’s the second theme in Times’ report.

The third theme identifies two current candidates for public office who are attached (umbilically?) to Herrod and CAP.

Herrod pointed to HB2036, sponsored by then Rep. Kimberly Yee in 2012, which included a ban on abortions after 20 weeks. That policy was overturned in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But at the time Yee, a Phoenix Republican, sponsored the bill and the center helped guide it through the Legislature …

Me thinks Herrod does not worry about the legal bills paid for by the Arizona taxpayers. Neither do the GOPlins who spend our tax money on predictably losing causes.

As for the losses in court, Center for Arizona Policy’s wins make the cost of litigation worth it, Herrod said.

Republican legislators who back Herrod’s bills often feel the same way. None of the sponsors of bills that led to legal losses for the state returned calls for comment. But Sen. Debbie Lesko, who as a representative sponsored the bill to block abortion providers from tax credit benefits in 2011, had her reason for pushing the bill cited in an order preliminarily blocking the law.

“I believe God has put me here for a reason,” Lesko, a Peoria Republican, had said during a committee hearing. “And I often ask Him, ‘What is that reason?’ and I ask for a purpose. (I ask Him to) ‘Please guide me and tell me what you want me to do.’ And I truly believe that one of the purposes that I have been put in this position is to protect the lives of innocent children.”

Now this is interesting. You see, Lesko is the Queen of Voucher Vultures. One her big missions is school choice (aka vouchers for all, crumbs for public schools). I have to infer: reproductive choice is unGODly but school choice is sanctified (at least in Lesko’s world view). Now I cannot reconcile this contradiction but then I just don’t understand the God Over People crowd anyway.

Yee is running for AZ State Treasurer and Lesko is running for the House of Representatives in AZ CD8.

Stay tuned for more information from the CD8 special election in just a few days on April 24th.

Candidate watch - ACC commissioner Tom Forese quits treasurer race, won't run again for Corporation Commission

The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) carries this APA item: Utility regulator Tom Forese drops Arizona treasurer bid.

Arizona utility regulator Tom Forese says he’s dropping out of the race for state treasurer.

The Arizona Corporation Commission member has been seeking the seat for more than a year but announced his withdrawal Thursday. He was facing state Sen. Kimberly Yee in August’s Republican primary.

Forese said he decided to step aside after Gov. Doug Ducey appointed Eileen Klein to the treasurer’s post on Tuesday to replace Jeff DeWit. He resigned to become chief financial officer at NASA. Klein said she does not plan to run for the seat.

Forese said he ran to ensure the office was in good hands and it is with Klein. He also won’t seek re-election to the commission.

I wonder what that’s about. Is he dropping out of political life altogether?

State Rep. Mark Cardenas and attorney Mark Manoil are seeking the Democratic nomination.

It looks like one of these Dems will face Republican Kimberly Yee.

Now it gets interesting...

Arizona Educators United (AEU) and the Arizona Education Association (AEA) announced last night that Arizona teachers have made the decision to strike. They reported that  57,000 of the state’s 60,000 teachers cast ballots with 78 percent voting for the walk out. When asked about timing, AEU leader Noah Karvelis said they wanted to give communities time to prepare, but would begin the walk out next Thursday.

When asked about the teacher’s demands, AEA President Joe Thomas referred to the two letters the groups have hand-delivered to Governor Ducey’s office (to which they’ve received no response), and said that they will definitely demand no tax cuts this year. He said it is time to start reinvesting in our schools and our state.

At least a third of our teachers were at my school board meeting tonight, and several of them spoke during the call to the public. They were respectful, realistic and real. One of the teachers talked about all the things she buys for her classroom and her students. She mentioned the items decorating her classroom walls, the snacks the students eat before they go out to recess and the tissues they use to blow their noses. She said it is a slap in the face to allow teachers a small tax credit so they can go out and buy their own supplies.

I agree. As former Vice-President Joe Biden said, “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget.” That’s really the bottom line. Until Governor Ducey and our Legislature finds a dedicated funding stream, to adequately fund our district schools and their professional educators and staff, they are telling our teachers, our parents and worst of all...our students, that they aren’t the priority.
We have even more turbulent days ahead and I hope calmer heads will prevail and allow us to find the best solution that will lead to much brighter days for Arizona district schools. I predict though, that if all the efforts of education advocates and teachers (including the walk out) doesn’t get the job done, the voters will finish the work in November!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Connecting the dots - Trump, Cohen, and the Russian Mafia

Explosive: The Russian mafia ran U.S. operations out of a club partially owned by Trump’s ‘lawyer’ reports Jen Hayden at the Daily Kos.

The Donald Trump-Russia connections just keep cropping up. Now there are explosive new details about his so-called attorney, Michael Cohen, who just so happened to grow up in a rather exclusive NYC club that was known as the preferred meeting spot of the Russian mob in the U.S. You cannot make this stuff up. From Talking Points Memo:

According to published reports, in the 70s and early 80s, the boss of the Russian mob in New York (and for practical purposes the whole U.S) was a man named Evsei Agron. Things ended badly for Agron when was gunned down in a mob hit in 1985. After Agron was assassinated, his organization was taken over by under-boss Marat Balagula. Authorities believed Balagula was behind Agron’s killing. But he was never charged with the crime. Balagula ran things until 1991 when he was convicted of gasoline bootlegging. Nayfeld had been the bodyguard and enforcer for both Agron and Balagula, one would say more successfully in the latter case than the former. He took over the organization when Balagula went to prison.

What I didn’t realize until now is that both Agron and his successor Balagula ran their operations out of an office in the El Caribe social club. So the El Caribe wasn’t just a mob hangout. From the 70s through the 90s at least, the bosses of the Russian mafia in the U.S. literally ran their crime organization out of the El Caribe.

So Michael Cohen’s uncle Morton Levine’s social club was the headquarters of Russian organized crime in the U.S.

Is your jaw on the ground? Mine definitely is. That is some coincidental connection, no? As TPM noted, the Associated Press article from January 2017 about Boris Nayfield, who they describe as “New York’s most notorious living Russian mobster,” had this glaring detail:

After the infamous mob boss Agron was killed, Nayfeld served as a bodyguard and chauffer for the next don of the Russian mob, Marat Balagula.

Balagula maintained an office at the El Caribe Country Club, a Brooklyn catering hall and event space owned by the uncle of President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

The uncle, Dr. Morton Levine, said that all his nieces and nephews have an ownership in the company, but that Cohen “gave up his stake,” after Trump was elected.

No wonder everyone in Trump-land is freaking out about Michael Cohen and the mountain of evidence the FBI seized in their raid on his home, office, safety deposit box and hotel room. Loyalty won’t protect Trump or anyone else Cohen is associated with (Hannity!) if the FBI has all the evidence they need to make a case. That’s the price to pay though, right? If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

Good luck, fellas.

Rolling Stone has more in A Brief History of Michael Cohen’s Criminal Ties. From the Russian mob to money launderers, Trump’s personal attorney has long been a subject of interest to federal investigators.

AZ Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona adds even more detail in Michael Cohen’s deep ties to the Russian mafia and concludes:

Why is Trump freaking out about the documents and recordings the FBI seized from Michael Cohen? Those documents recordings may contain evidence of Russian influence over Trump with which he has been or can be compromised. Cohen is a key to the “collusion” investigation. Stormy Daniels is the sideshow and a distraction.

Ducey offers Arizonans a choice - teachers' raise vs. music and art. PTA resists.

The Arizona Parent Teacher Association has withdrawn its support for Gov. Doug Ducey’s Shameful Shell game that funds a promised 20% raise by robbing other programs.

My quotes below are via my subscription to the Arizona Capitol Times, PTA group withdraws support from Ducey’s teacher pay hike plan, but the same story ran this morning on the front page of the Daily Star.

Calling the governor’s plan not sustainable, the Arizona PTA has withdrawn its backing for Gov. Doug Ducey’s teacher pay hike plan.

Beth Simek, the organization’s president, told Capitol Media Services this afternoon that her own research shows there is no way Ducey can finance both the pay raise and restoration of capital funding without cutting the budget for other needed programs. And Simek said she believes some of what the governor plans to slice could end up hurting the very children her organization is working to protect.

The change of heart comes just two days after Simek stood with the Arizona School Boards Association and other school groups to give their blessing to Ducey’s proposal.

Simek said that she was not given all the relevant information about how Ducey plans to finance his plan when the governor first asked for support. So, what she did was strike out on her own and gather as much in specifics as she could from various other sources, including other state agencies.

Most crucial, she said, are the cuts being made elsewhere in the budget.

For example, Simek said, Ducey’s plan cuts $2.9 million that had been allocated for skilled nursing services in both the state Medicaid program and the Department of Economic Security. Also gone is $1.8 million aid for “critical access hospitals” and $4 million that the governor had proposed in additional dollars for the developmentally disabled.

“We can’t support that,” Simek said. “That hurts kids and it hurts families.”

The governor’s plan also cuts back $2 million in arts funding, which arts advocates say would decimate grants that fund programs that benefit pupils.

Gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato said nothing in the plan actually reduces existing funds. Instead, he said, this is simply Ducey deciding not to add money to these programs.

Simek, for her part, said she’s not convinced that deciding not to add those dollars – dollars that originally had been proposed as necessary – will not harm children.

More to the point, Simek said none of this was disclosed to her when she was asked to support Ducey’s plan.

One of the arts groups mentioned above is the Tucson Symphony Orchestra which said this in an email message yesterday.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s proposed plan to pay for raises for teachers statewide, includes sweeping $2 million in funding the Arizona Legislature sought for Arizona Commission on the Arts grants. Ironically, this will result in grants cut by up to 70 percent for arts organizations, and could lead to the elimination of arts programs for schools and communities statewide.

We do not believe the numerous organizations endorsing the Governor’s commitment to the cumulative 20% pay raise, nor the teachers, intended that the lion’s share of state funding for statewide arts organizations would be reduced or eliminated, when those arts organizations complement, support, and enhance arts education programs across Arizona communities.

Now is the time for arts advocates to speak up LOUDLY. The money intended for the Arts Commission budget, represents less than 1 percent of the teacher pay package, but it will devastate the commission and do great damage to the arts organizations that depend on its support and its programs.

However, we believe there is a solution. Absent any other source of funding, the $2 million for the Arts Commission should be restored and funded – as it has been for the last five years – from interest earned from the state Rainy Day Fund. This will NOT affect the teacher pay plan.

Please contact your legislators and the Governor today, and then share this message with your friends and colleagues via email and on social media.

This is another one of Ducey’s Choices. Arizona teachers can get a raise (albeit still an inadequate one) as long as the state agrees to under-fund other programs for children and to give up our music. And all this is in play because the legislature has consistently failed in its constitutional obligation to fund public education.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Not Fake News, Just Propaganda

Yesterday, a friend emailed me a copy of a Goldwater document that had been placed in all the “mail” boxes at his “Life Plan Community” (retirement/assisted living). The document was titled, “The Truth about Teacher Pay”, and dated April 12, 2018.

Even without the Goldwater logo at the top, I could have easily identified it as a right-wing propaganda piece. In it, the Goldwater Institute Director of Education Policy, Matthew Simon, began by making the point that “though fingers are pointed at state legislatures with calls for higher teacher salaries, the reality is that in many cases, locally elected school district governing boards are responsible for the size of paychecks.” He went on to write that, “independently elected governing boards wield considerable power in their positions by creating policies, crafting school district budgets and setting teacher pay.”

Simon provides a couple of examples of the significant difference in pay between various school districts to make his point. He then writes that, “teachers in Arizona have launched their demands at legislators in a well-coordinated campaign.” Of course, this “well-coordinated campaign”, is just a dog-whistle to infer the big bad “union” is driving the train. Truth is, the #RedForEd effort comes from a grassroots movement. There is no statewide collective bargaining unit in Arizona, because our state is a “Right to Work” state. Which means, employees really have no rights at work.

“If Arizona teachers and the public have a gripe with elected officials”, Simon continued, “the elected officials they should be targeting with this anger need to be their locally elected school district governing boards. When a school district governing board prioritizes teacher pay, teacher pay is higher.”

The problem with Simon’s piece isn’t that it isn’t factual, but rather, that he propagandizes the facts. As defined by Merriam-Webster, is “ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause.” I believe, the “particular political cause” in this case, is to try to take the pressure off the state legislature for their failure to adequately fund public education, and instead, put it on the backs of governing board members. If I wanted to be really cynical, I could say it is just another attempt by the Goldwater Institute and monied out-of-state interests, to force the privatization of our public schools down Arizonans’ collective throats. You know, discredit governing board members and local control and tout that the only way to fix the resulting dysfunction is to turn our kids over to the profiteers.

Yes, it is true that the Arizona Constitution gives school board members the authority to set salaries for their district’s teachers. Arizona Revised Statute 15–341.A.17 states, “The governing board shall: Use school monies received from the state and county school apportionment exclusively for payment of salaries of teachers and other employees and contingent expenses of the district.” The phrase “contingent expenses of the district” however covers a wide range of other costs governing board members must ensure are not only budgeted for and appropriately allocated.

Therein, they say, lies the rub. You see, governing board members can only allocate that which the state Legislature, (which oh by the way, has responsibility for the “establishment and maintenance of a general and uniform public school system”), provides. In fact, education, along with public safety, roads and infrastructure, is one of the three constitutionally-mandated functions the Legislature is responsible for. Thing is, over the past decade, that has been woefully inadequate. You’ve probably already heard that Arizona had the highest cuts per pupil in the nation, 2008 to 2014, that the average salary of our elementary teachers is 50th in the nation and high school teachers is 49th, and that our capital funding, (for facility maintenance and repair and other big ticket items like buses), was cut 85% in the last decade. You’ve also probably heard that the Legislature continues to funnel public tax dollars to private and religious schools with almost zero accountability and transparency; passing the full expansion of vouchers for all school children last year.

You may not have heard, that in the past couple of years, two non-partisan, serious studies of education funding determined that there can be no meaningful fix to the way Arizona’s education funding is allocated, until additional funding is resourced. In 2016, the Governor Ducey appointed chair of the Governor’s Classrooms First Council said, “that, ”the schools aren’t going to significantly improve unless they get more money.“ In a previous post, I wrote about the statewide, non-partisan 2017 AZ Town Hall on PreK–12 Education Funding, which determined that the problem is not so much the percentage of the state budget allocated to our districts, but the size of the overall state budget ”pie".

And yet, Arizona governing board members continue to lead to deliver with the resources they are provided. After Proposition 123 was passed, they ensured 90% of the additional funding was allocated to teachers. Between FY 2015 and FY 2018, they enabled their districts to hire almost 1,800 more full-time equivalent teachers, and raised teacher salaries across the state by an average of $2,044.

Governing board members know that the number one in-school factor for determining student success is a high-quality teacher and with our on-going critical shortage of teachers, they are eager to incentivize good teachers to stay in their classrooms. But, teachers aren’t the only critical need. After all, when 30% of Arizona buses fail safety inspections, schools are closed for emergency repairs to fix unsafe facility conditions, and some classrooms are forced to use 12-year old computers, governing board members must make tough decisions about resource allocation.

Matthew Simon did not write his piece to inform, but rather, to deflect blame for the funding crisis we find ourselves in. A funding crisis which is largely self-manufactured. Yes, our Legislature also had to make tough calls during the recession in 2008, but “economists say the real culprit is the cumulative impact of two decades of Arizona governors and lawmakers chipping away at the bottom line.” In 2016, tax cuts over that period cost the state’s general fund $4 billion in revenue according to an analysis by economists with Arizona State University. These economists also wrote “More than 90% of the decline in revenue resulted from tax reductions.”

According to an AZ Capitol Times article from May 2017, data compiled by the Arizona Department of Revenue showed that more than 50% of all state taxes hadn’t been collected for at least the past ten years. ‘Called “tax expenditures,” they amount to $136.5 billion since fiscal year 2007, roughly equivalent to the sum of the state budgets spanning the past 15 years.’ In FY 2016 alone, over $12 billion was excluded from sales tax collection. Governor Ducey has continued the trend, vowing (and thus far keeping that promise) to cut taxes every year he is in office.

Governing board members share no more, and no less blame for this situation than does the average voter. After all, they are also voters and the reason our lawmakers have gotten away with pursuing the repeatedly failed “trickle-down” (Kansas anyone?) philosophy is that Arizona voters continue voting the same lawmakers into office. The bottom line is that until voters truly draw the nexus between the results they want and the candidates they elect, we can’t expect any different or better.

McConnell: "no indication that Mueller's going to be fired" He also believes in the tooth fairy.

Senate Majority Leader McConnell quashes Senate vote on bill to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller reports USA Today (and many other sources).

In an interview with USA TODAY, James Comey warned that should the president fire special counsel Robert Mueller, it would be “an attack on the rule of law that we have not seen in our lifetime.”

McConnell just greased the path for that possible (probable? eventual?) attack by Trump.

President Trump has grown increasingly angry about Mueller’s probe, which is examining possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 election and other matters. Last week, Trump told reporters that “many people” have told him he should fire Mueller and did not rule out taking that step.

Some media outlets have also reported that Trump is considering firing the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe.

Such comments have made some Republicans nervous. Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, is among those pushing for a vote on the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, which would also give a special counsel the ability to go to court to challenge a firing.

“This compromise bipartisan bill helps ensure that special counsels – present or future – have the independence they need to conduct fair and impartial investigations,” Tillis said last week.

Democrats have also been pushing for action on the bill. But McConnell and other Republican leaders have shrugged off Trump’s comments, saying they don’t believe Trump will fire Mueller so there’s no need for legislation to protect the special counsel.

“There’s no indication that Mueller’s going to be fired,” McConnell told Fox’s Neil Cavuto.

It is widely believed that Trump does not read. Neither, apparently, does McConnell.

McConnell’s went a step further than he has in the past — saying not only that he does not think the bill is necessary but also ruling out a floor vote even if the measure wins committee approval.

“I’m the one who decides what (bills) we take to the floor,” McConnell said.

“What arrogance,” Scriber said.

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, also blasted McConnell.

“I think it’s a complete abdication of responsibility,” Schiff said.

“If President Trump fires Rod Rosenstein or Robert Mueller, is Mitch McConnell going to say he didn’t see it coming?” Schiff said in an interview. “Nobody is going to be able to say that with a straight face."

UN ambassador Nikki Haley undercut by Trump

The essence is this. (1) Nikki Haley, Ambassador to the UN, was told of the administration’s intent to impose additional sanctions on Russia. (2) She said that publicly. (3) Trump blew up and said he was not ready to do that. (4) Haley was then accused of “momentary confusion” by Larry Kudlow. (5) Haley said she does not get confused. (6) Kudlow apologized. You can read the details in Sanctions Flap Erupts Into Open Conflict Between Haley and White House.

All that leaves me with the suspicion that Haley is likely to be the next member of the administration to be fired resign. Trump has once again done damage to the nation’s credibility by doing dirt to a member of his team. If my boss had ever done that to me, I would have quit in a heartbeat. That behavior would have undercut my own credibility with my audience and have destroyed my trust in my boss.

Kudlow’s subsequent comments just serve to reinforce the impression of Trump’s White House as being dysfunctional.

He added: “As it turns out, she was basically following what she thought was policy. The policy was changed and she wasn’t told about it, so she was in a box.”

The argument that Ms. Haley had merely gotten out ahead of a decision was undercut by the fact that the White House itself had sent out word to surrogates on Saturday — the day before her remarks — letting them know that it had already decided to take punitive action against Moscow.

Check out the Times’ report for evidence that this flip-flop might be due to Trump’s insecurity and fear of Haley.

[Representative Gerald E. Connolly, Democrat of Virginia and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee] … described her as an important counterpoint to Mr. Trump. “She’s been a little island of some sanity in this otherwise dysfunctional, irrational, volatile White House when it comes to foreign policy,” he said. “She’s now getting the Tillerson treatment. And so perhaps this island will be swallowed up by rising sea levels.”

“It damages her credibility going forward and once again makes everyone, friend and foe alike, wonder that when the United States says something, approves something, calls for something, opposes something, is it for real?” [Connolly] said. “Should we wait to see what Trump does the next day?”

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Candidate FYI - Superintendent of Public Instruction

On the Democratic side, there are two progressive candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction: David Schapira, a Progressive Candidate For Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Kathy Hoffman: A Progressive Candidate for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction. Both posts by David Gordon appeared in Blog for Arizona. Gordon provides a lot of detail about their positions on educational issues.

Schapira is scheduled to speak at the May 19th meeting of the Quail Creek Dems, 3:00 PM in the Quail Creek Kino Center.

Here is part of Gordon’s evaluation. Schapira is a “former Senate Democratic Leader and current Tempe City Council Member”.

Schapira sports an impressive resume of public service that has prepared him to run for the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction. As a public school high school instructor, a professor at Arizona State University, and administrator at the East Valley Institute of Technology, Schapira has totally familiarized himself with both the academic and non-academic spheres of school operations.

As a public office holder, Schapira is well-versed in the mechanics of both the local and state planning and administering of public policy. In our discussion (and on his website), Schapira relayed that the achievement he takes the most pride in and would like to see as a model for the state: the “Tempe Pre” initiative he created as a councilmember in Tempe, which provides 360 low-income children access to free, high-quality preschool.

In the Scribers’ academic experience, there is little correlation between the skill set that makes an effective classroom teacher and the skill set that makes for an effective administrator who deals with those who fund our public education system. Schapira is stands out for us because of the latter.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Ducey promises teachers raises - without funding and nothing for other school employees

Arizona teachers skeptical of Ducey’s raise proposal, continuing to plan walkout headlines a report by The Republic. Let’s call that “plan” Ducey’s Doozy. Here are the highlights.

Arizona educators appeared mostly skeptical of Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposal to give teachers 20 percent raises by 2020, and the organizers leading the teachers’ #RedForEd revolt said it does not change their plans for a walkout.

Organizers with Arizona Educators United, the grassroots group fueling Arizona’s teacher-led #RedForEd movement, expressed distrust in Ducey’s proposal. He called for 9 percent teacher raises this fall and 5 percent raises over each of the next two years.

“This has raised more questions for us than answers,” Noah Karvelis, one of the AEU organizers, said. “We don’t know the details. We don’t know the funding sources.”

The proposal was an abrupt change in tone for Ducey, who has watched as educators in Arizona for weeks protested and threatened a walkout. As recently as Tuesday, Ducey called the protests a “political circus” and said he wouldn’t meet with organizers.

AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona explains in detail why the teachers (and everyone else) should be skeptical of Il Duce’s Doozy: After Prop. 123, ‘we don’t get fooled again’.

You can smell desperation coming from the governor’s office on the ninth floor.

Last year Gov. Ducey’s budget gave teachers a 2 percent raise over five years, or put another way, they would get a four-tenths of a percent raise per year over five years.

The legislature eventually settled on one percent last year — this was actually a one-time bonus — and one percent this year, with no promises for future pay raises.

… Ducey’s chief of staff Kirk Adams said some of the money would come from reductions in the Medicaid caseload. He said more details would be released in the coming days.

Ah, your typical GOP “divide and conquer” plan: pitting poor people on Medicaid against starving teachers. “You can have one or the other, but you can’t have both.”

Well, yes we can. The legislature can rescind the corporate welfare tax cuts passed by Governor Jan Brewer (and then House Speaker Kirk Adams) and phased-in over four years, and the additional corporate welfare tax cuts passed under Governor Ducey. Or the legislature can finally meet its constitutionally required duty and raise taxes to pay for public education in Arizona.

Illustrated News for April 16th

  • Zuckerberg, CEO of Losing Face Book, testifies whines before Congress
  • Democracy under attack by Trump. Lady Liberty? Off with her head!
  • Paul Ryan, sick of babysitting, opts to spend more time with his own kids
  • Under pressure to ban something, GOP opts for abortion instead of assault weapons
  • Complete this analogy. Rat : Sinking ship :: Ryan : ________.
  • New movie in the works: Forrest Trump. “Life is like a box of nondisclosure agreements.”
  • Trump picks a fight with Comey - and everyone else he thinks of at the moment.

Aw, nuts! I gotta stop. This Mournday Mourning’s toons from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona are too much like real news.

With thanks to B4AZ commenter For Sure Not Tom: the Trump Arrest Montage video with music From Russia with Love. One can only hope.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Declare a win and fight on!

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com

This past week, Governor Ducey bowed to pressure from fed-up teachers and public education advocates in releasing a plan to give teachers a 20% pay raise by 2020 and restore District Additional Funding. Although details on funding sources are slim, the Governor has said the plan will not simply redirect money meant for other school needs. He also stipulated the 20% for teacher raises would be added to the base so that it becomes permanent funding our districts and their teachers can count on.

There is, of course, much consternation about how this “sausage” was made. Truth is, discussions between education advocacy organizations have been underway for sometime about the best strategy to fight for teacher salary increases and other funding our districts desperately need. Then, last week, nine GOP legislators collaborated to devise their own plan. As reported on AZCentral.com, it included a 6% pay raise next year, with an increase for five years to a total of 24%. This plan left some education advocates calling it a “shell game” because it included no new money for schools, but a reallocation of available monies. When Governor Ducey got wind of the effort, he called in the legislators, along with several education advocacy organizations, to discuss a solution.

The solution is far from adequate as it still won’t restore our districts to 2008 funding, and doesn’t provide enough money to adequately compensate support staff, or take care of our crumbling facilities and replace capital equipment. If it actually comes to fruition though, it is a big step in the right direction. We should, as representatives from SOS AZ, AZ PTA and the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) have said, “declare a win, a win” and take credit for the effective work we’ve all done to move the Governor to this point.

I recognize there are many who don’t think the solution goes far enough and can’t say I disagree. Effective governance though, requires compromise and no, that is NOT a four letter word. Compromise is what is required if we are to come up with the best, viable solutions that will hopefully give the majority of people at least some of what they want.

As the President of ASBA, I will be proud (assuming the Governor delivers) of our Association’s achieving victory on three of the important items from our member-approved 2018 Legislative Agenda:
- Provide additional state funding for nationally competitive salaries to attract, recruit and retain talented teachers;
- Restore district additional assistance (DAA) reductions; and
- Maximize local control and flexibility in managing funds and programs.

In addition, we sought the “Renewal of Prop. 301” which was another of our legislative agenda items. And, thanks to the work of SOS AZ with some financial help from Friends of ASBA, we may also achieve success on the agenda item to “Repeal any program that gives public funds for private schools, ESAs & STOs or prevent any future expansion.”

Even though I believe we may have largely “won” this battle, the overall war rages on and we cannot yet put away our pens, our signs, and our voices. There is much left to fight for because although the 20% raise would bring the average salary for AZ teachers within $800 of the 2017 national average, funding for their support staff is still inadequate as is that for many other needs. And although, Governor Ducey has made higher state revenue, the rearranging of his budget priorities and lower state agency caseloads sound like viable funding streams, we are right to be suspicious of exactly where from, sustainable funding will come.

As the saying goes, the “devil is in the details.” We must all demand those details from the Governor and keep the pressure on him to actually deliver on his latest promises. We must also ensure our education community continues to work together and does not allow a wedge to be driven between us. This is important because, even though we may have some different ideas on how to deliver for our districts, we all want more opportunity and better academic results for ALL our students.

In the end, the only thing that will ensure our state works toward that goal is the election of more pro-public education candidates. We don’t need to, as the Chicago saying goes, “vote early and often”, but we do need to vote wisely. It is beyond time for Arizona voters to draw the nexus between the results they want, and the candidates they elect. I choose to remain hopeful, because failure is simply not an option.

No news is good news ...

… I think.

This morning we awoke to no news of a Saturday Night Massacre. That’s the good news.

The not-so-good news is that the child in the White House, now in its Terrible Twos, threw a tweety tantrum directed at former FBI director James Comey. Of course that does not qualify as news per se because we know by now that Trump lashes out at his distractors with false accusations and demands that they be jailed - first his Republican opponents, then candidate Hllary Clinton, and now James Comey.

The Washington Post, among other sources (like This Week on ABC this morning), reports that Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, suggests ex-FBI director deserves ‘jail’.

President Trump attacked James B. Comey in a fusillade of tweets Sunday morning, suggesting that the former FBI director deserves to be imprisoned as he served up a number of his favorite theories and alleged misdeeds without evidence.

Trump’s tweets are part of a broader effort by the White House and the Republican National Committee to discredit Comey, who has written a damaging tell-all book titled “A Higher Loyalty,” to be released Tuesday. A Sunday night interview on ABC News will kick off his national book tour and publicity campaign for the memoir.

Comey’s book is a scathing depiction of his interactions with Trump, in which he likens the president to an “unethical” mob boss and casts his inner circle in largely unflattering terms.

[In this morning’s tweets] Trump has continued to allege that [fired Deputy FBI Director Andrew] McCabe was deferential to Hillary Clinton during the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server because his wife took donations from a Clinton ally for a state Senate race in Virginia. The accusation is one that McCabe has denied and has never been proven.

McCabe’s attorney, Michael R. Bromwich, responded Sunday to the president’s claims, tweeting: “1. The book isn’t out so you don’t know what’s in it. 2. The Comey and McCabe memos are very real. 3. The story about “McCabe’s $ 700,000” has been fully explained. 4. Your strategy of attacking beloved former FBI leaders — not smart.”

ABC’s This Week reported that Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, a likely target of a Trumpian political bloodbath, goes to work each morning not knowing if he has a job. Just because we have not yet been hit with a Trump version of Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre does not mean that there will not be one tonight, or tomorrow, or …

Judging from the highlighted item above, the Republican National Committee, and the Republican controlled Congress, will permit such a constitutionally earth-shaking event. To steal one of Trump’s lines, let’s lock ’em up.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Trump vs. Mueller - After a Saturday Night Massacre, there will be a Sunday Morning Sidewalk

The only question you should be asking: Is this the Saturday?

With apologies for my lyrics to Kris Kristofferson for his excellent song Sunday Morning Sidewalk (here a duet with Johnny Cash).

After Saturday night mass’cre
I’m wishing Lord that I was stoned
‘Cause there’s something in our Pres’dent
That makes a body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin‘
That’s half as loathsome as the sound
Of a sleepin’ Goplin Congress
And Sunday mornin’ comin’ down

Many writers I read, and many people I listen to, are all but resigned to some form of a Trumpian Saturday Night Massacre resulting in the firing of Robert Mueller and maybe a few more. There seems to be little if any gumption in Washington to resist Trump. Especially not the GOP members of Congress.

Republican columnist Rick Wilson explains how Congressional Republicans are spineless. They’re not going to save Mueller..

I’ll get back to Wilson’s essay, but first off, how serious is the talk of Trump firing Mueller (and maybe Sessions, and maybe Rosenstein, and maybe …)? It seems more so with each day. For example, just when you thought things could not be worse, Bannon is back. Robert Costa (Washington Post) provides the evidence that Bannon pitches White House on plan to cripple Mueller probe and protect Trump. Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former top strategist, says the White House should stop cooperating with special counsel Robert S. Muller III and assert executive privilege.

… Bannon’s efforts signify the growing pressure from an influential wing of Trump’s political base to thwart Mueller, who, many Trump allies believe, presents an existential legal and political threat to his presidency.

How will this happen?

The first step … would be for Trump to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein … cease [White House] cooperation with Mueller … create a new legal battleground to protect [Trump] from the investigation by asserting executive privilege — and arguing that Mueller’s interviews with White House officials over the past year should now be null and void. [Bannon claims] "It was a strategic mistake to turn over everything without due process, and executive privilege should be exerted immediately and retroactively.”

Bannon and his allies sense that Trump simply needs a nudge to fire Rosenstein, according to the people familiar with Bannon’s discussions. They said Trump has recently told friends and aides that he is willing to engage in political warfare in the coming months to stop his presidency from being consumed by the investigation.

The case against Rosenstein has featured prominently in the closed-door discussions among Bannon and other figures on the right, with Bannon arguing that voters in the GOP base will stick by the president if he removes Rosenstein despite protests from Republican leaders and many others.

“Let’s remember whom we’re dealing with here …”

… Wilson reminds us.

With few exceptions, congressional Republicans are cowed by this president. They’re accustomed to making excuses for him, and if they were going to stand up to him, they’ve already had plenty of chances. Thursday, via tweet, Trump made no bones about his view that he can jettison Mueller whenever he chooses. So, while anything’s possible, it’s tough to imagine that if Mueller gets fired before he completes his investigation, members of the GOP caucus will come together to take meaningful action that punishes Trump. Nothing they’ve done up to now suggests that they’ve got the requisite backbone.

It’s been nearly a year since Trump fired James Comey as FBI director, and the best that a lot of these professional brow-furrowers and hand-wringers could muster, at the time, were reactions ranging from “disappointed” to “troubled” to “Trump made the right decision.”…

Since Comey’s firing, they’ve stuck with Trump through last year’s dubious Syria missile strikes, a burgeoning deficit, two reported affairs, emerging allegations of a heretofore unreported love child, tariffs (freaking tariffs) and a perverse adherence to let’s-hear-both-sides-ism when it comes to torch-marching bigots.

They’ve left the nuclear codes in the hands of a man whose tweets read as if their author were foaming at the mouth. They’ve shrugged as he’s burned through a chief economic adviser, a chief of staff, an arsonist-in-chief — er, chief strategist — a secretary of state, a VA secretary, a press secretary, two national security advisers and three communications directors in 15 months on the job. (Did I miss someone? Does it matter?)

If you think this is exaggeration, you’ve not been attending to Scott Pruitt’s misuse of public funds to feed his own paranoia. Why is Pruitt still in office? Perhaps it is to fill in as AG if/when Trump fires Sessions?

The bottom line: there are damn few GOPlins willing to stand up to Trump. So few that I feel justified in my pronouncement of cowards all.

AZ GOPlins are preparing a 'chickenshit dirty trick' to rescue vouchers for all

To Jim Nintzel at Tucson Weekly/The Range, it Looks Like Lawmakers Are Moving To Squash That Ballot Prop To Block School Vouchers.

That would be Prop 305. We knew this was coming given the rumors swirling about over the last week or so. Now it’s out in the open with reporting from Nintzel, Laurie Roberts of The Republic, and AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

Citing a report from The Republic, AZBlueMeanie explains:

The goal is to repeal last year’s legislation that expanded the ESA program to all 1.1 million public-school students and replace it with legislation intended to address criticisms of the expansion, according to more than a half-dozen people familiar with the wide-ranging discussions.

Sen. Bob Worsley, a Republican from Mesa (a mythical moderate Republican), has talked in broad terms over the past week with lawmakers and outside groups about new Empowerment Scholarship Account legislation but did not offer specific details to The Arizona Republic.

The “repeal and replace” idea would circumvent Arizona’s referendum process, which allows voters to try to veto a law if they gather sufficient signatures to place it on the ballot.

Nintzel remarks:

The effort could backfire. Last year, Save Our Schools Arizona was able to gather enough signatures to force a referendum on the voucher plan. Making them go out and do it all over again with this kind of chickenshit dirty trick will energize teachers and other public ed supporters, which will make it even easier to turn them out in November—which is the last thing that Gov. Doug Ducey needs as he runs for reelection.

But, as Roberts notes, the Save our Schools folks, if necessary, are ready to go at it again with another referendum: Arizona leaders preparing end run on voters to save their school voucher law.

You knew this was coming.

From the moment a grassroots group of Arizona citizens had the nerve to challenge our leaders and freeze their efforts to divert more of our money to private schools, You. Knew. This. Was. Coming.

Republicans at the state Capitol are quietly talking about a plan to repeal the universal voucher program they passed last year – the one 100,000 citizens signed petitions to block and put on the November ballot – and replacing it with a new universal voucher program.

This, in order to block voters from having the final say in November on whether we want to send hundreds of millions of dollars more to private schools at a time when public schools are woefully underfunded.

Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, who brokered the deal that allowed universal vouchers to pass last year, is apparently spearheading the sneak attack on your constitutional right to referendum.

According to the Republic report, Worsley is talking to Gov. Doug Ducey’s office, other legislators and “outside groups”, which is code for the dark-money interests who spent big bucks getting Ducey and Republican legislators elected.

The ones who want to expand Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (read: vouchers) to every child in the state. Or at least, the ones who can afford to supplement an ESA with thousands of dollars more in order to cover private school tuition.

But no shady deal is acceptable to those in Save Our Schools.

Dawn Penich-Thacker, spokeswoman for Save Our Schools Arizona, vowed to mount a new referendum if our leaders go forward with this sneak attack. She said she’s been approached about the idea of repealing the voucher law and replacing it with a voucher plan that comes with a sweetener – 10 percent pay raises for public school teachers.

But hey! Ducey et al. have insisted there is no money for teacher raises. Now, when the voucher vultures feel threatened, suddenly there is money for raises.

Here’s an alternative idea, Sen. Worsley, Gov Ducey: How about leaving the voucher law intact and allowing Arizona voters to exercise their constitutional right – their right – to decide whether they want a two-tier system of schools: public schools for the have-nots and private schools for the haves.

And since we now know that there is money available, how about you raise teacher pay by 10 percent? Because you should.

I add with no strings attached. Do the raises and leave Prop 305 to the voters’ decision. That’s the moral and constitutional right thing to do.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Farewell to the zombie-eyed granny starver. Now let's move on.

House Speaker Paul Ryan to exit stage right reports Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog).

… there’s no getting around the fact that Ryan appears to be fleeing a sinking ship. I’ll have plenty more to say about the Speaker’s record and legacy in the near future, but for now, consider the message the Wisconsin Republican is sending to the party and its supporters about the GOP’s chances in the midterm elections.

On the one hand, Ryan is telling his members they’ll be fine and tax breaks for the rich will save them. On the other hand, the Speaker is sharing this message while shoving his stuff in a suitcase with a plane ticket sticking out of his jacket pocket.

The real Ryan legacy

Paul Ryan’s congressional career is ending, but his legacy of lies will survive writes Michael Hiltzik in the LA Times (reprinted in this morning’s Daily Star).

Say this for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., who announced his pending retirement from Congress on Wednesday. Of all his powers, the ability to cloud Washington journalists’ minds was the most remarkable.

Time after time, Ryan would be hailed as a sage: a budget wonk, a “reformer” of Social Security and Medicare, a defender of the poor.

Time after time, he would articulate the most transparent lies about social insurance programs and the Affordable Care Act, while interviewers as august as Charlie Rose sat at his feet, lapping it up.

It was a conspiracy of ignorance that placed the welfare of millions of Americans at risk.

Lest we join in the inevitable bestowal of historical accolades, we should be reminded of what Ryan had intended for our nation. Hiltzik continues:

The truth is that Ryan, a big fan of that avatar of plutocratic selfishness Ayn Rand, had only one detectable legislative principle. It was to promote the transfer of wealth upwards.

… Ryan said his goal of capping Medicaid was on the verge of success and simpered to his interlocutor, National Review Editor Rich Lowry, “We’ve been dreaming of this since I’ve been around — since you and I were drinking at a keg.”

Some young men dream of devoting their life to making life better for others; Ryan dreamed of cutting health-care benefits.

So farewell, Paul Ryan. We can’t agree with Pelosi’s picture of your “steadfast commitment to our country.”

From where we stand, your steadfast commitment was to your wealthy patrons, and no one else.

The Huffington Post identifies Paul Ryan’s Real Legacy: Donald Trump.

President Donald Trump tweeted that no one could question Ryan’s “legacy of achievement,” and Ryan himself said he was proud of all the things he had accomplished as speaker, namely the tax cuts he helped push through last year and the big increases to military spending he oversaw last month.

But aside from a failed policy agenda … Paul Ryan’s real legacy will always be this: A feckless leader who oversaw Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party and of Congress.

For all the posturing Ryan did in May 2016 about how he wasn’t ready to endorse Trump, for all the light rebukes of racism or the vacillating support after the Access Hollywood tape, the speaker led reluctant Republicans right to Trump’s feet.

It is tempting to jump on a soap box and loudly celebrate the political passing of Paul Ryan. Resist!

Ryan does not deserve even that. Let the “zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin” pass quietly into the historical scrap heap of failed legislators and get on with the task of reclaiming the Congress in November.

GOPlins split over need for legislative protection for Mueller. Is a 3rd attempt to fire Mueller imminent?

Daily Kos writer Laura Clawson reports that Senator sounds the alarm, demands Senate Judiciary Committee move on bill to protect Mueller ‘NOW’.

This should not be newsworthy, but it is: a Republican senator—one of them—is calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee to pass a bill protecting special counsel Robert Mueller from unilateral firing:

North Carolina’s Thom Tillis is one of the bill’s co-sponsors, and late last month he and Democratic co-sponsor Chris Coons issued a joint statement calling for the Judiciary Committee to take up the bill, saying “This should not be a partisan issue.”

Burgess Everett tweeted “Sen. Tillis says he wants the Judiciary Commitee to approve his bill to protect the special counsel NOW”

But we can see from the fact that Tillis is in such a distinct minority in his party calling for Mueller’s independence to be protected that it is a partisan issue—because Republicans are making it so. And the reasons for that, while not exactly secret, deserve a lot more attention than they’re getting.

Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post/Right Turn) files this related report: Just in time: A new Republican group seeks to protect Mueller.

Their timing could not be better. A day after reports surfaced that President Trump wanted to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in December (in addition to an earlier effort in June), five veteran Republicans have formed a new organization, Republicans for the Rule of Law, seeking to restrain the president from doing exactly that. Bill Kristol (editor at large for the Weekly Standard), Mona Charen (a veteran of the Ronald Reagan administration who recently made a splash at the Conservative Political Action Conference), Linda Chavez (another Reagan administration veteran), Sarah Longwell (a longtime GOP consultant and chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans) and Andy Zwick (executive director of the Foundation for Constitutional Government) launched the group. The following ad touting Mueller’s background and GOP ties aired on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe“:

Check out the video clip in Rubin’s article.

The group also released a Web ad quoting President Ronald Reagan extolling the rule of law.

The group is concerned about protecting Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, too. Trump reportedly was ruminating about firing him, a move that would be just as alarming as firing Mueller. Rosenstein’s replacement, at the behest of Trump, might seek to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation or force it to wrap up prematurely. Longwell tells me, “Any attempt to interfere in the special counsel’s investigation by firing a key official —whether Mueller, Rosenstein, or [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions — would be extremely damaging and not only to the rule of law, but also to the Republican Party and to Trump’s presidency.” She adds, “Such a move would further imperil vulnerable Republicans in November and completely derail the Republican policy agenda for the rest of 2018.”

We are now closer to a constitutional crisis than at any point in the Trump presidency. More unhinged, exposed and isolated than ever, Trump may very well decide to fire Justice Department officials to protect his hide, thereby spelling the end of his presidency. Kristol says, “Here’s what I’d say to the president: There’s no cause to fire anyone at Justice. Spend your time weakening America’s enemies abroad, not undermining the rule of law at home.” Now would be a good time for Republicans in Congress and around the country to make clear that firing Mueller, Sessions or Rosenstein would be politically fatal.

But will they do it?

The thing is, Republican leaders dismiss Trump’s words about firing Mueller, Rosenstein et al. are just bluster and thereby dismiss calls for legislative protection. However, Trump ‘believes’ he can fire Mueller (and he’s taken steps to do so) observes Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog).

Donald Trump caused a bit of a stir late Monday afternoon, publicly speculating about firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Whether the president has the legal authority to do so directly, however, is a subject of some debate.

And yet, there was White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders telling reporters yesterday that Trump “certainly believes he has the power” to oust the special counsel.

(He means Sarah Suckabee Handers.)

… the president has already reportedly taken steps to fire Mueller. The New York Times reported overnight:

In early December, President Trump, furious over news reports about a new round of subpoenas from the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, told advisers in no uncertain terms that Mr. Mueller’s investigation had to be shut down.

The president’s anger was fueled by reports that the subpoenas were for obtaining information about his business dealings with Deutsche Bank, according to interviews with eight White House officials, people close to the president and others familiar with the episode. To Mr. Trump, the subpoenas suggested that Mr. Mueller had expanded the investigation in a way that crossed the “red line” he had set last year in an interview with The New York Times.

If this sounds at all familiar, it’s because this wasn’t the first time. We learned last year that the president also called for Mueller’s ouster in June, but he backed down when White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign. Similarly, Trump was talked out of acting in December.

But if the reports are accurate, the political world shouldn’t just shrug its shoulders. A variety of Republican senators argued yesterday, for example, that there’s no need to approve legislation to shield the special counsel from White House interference. Trump may huff and puff, GOP lawmakers argued, but there’s little to suggest he’d follow through.

Except we keep confronting evidence to the contrary, suggesting the party’s wishful thinking may be naive.

Or willful disregard. The NBC News report cited by Benen reports:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday he hadn’t “seen clear indication yet that we have to pass something to keep him from being removed, because I don’t think that’s going to happen.” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the Senate Republican Conference chairman, agreed: “I don’t know that us legislating on that is the right path forward.”

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, asked if legislation is necessary to prevent Mueller from being dismissed, said “no, because I don’t think the president’s going to do it — and do you think the president would sign that legislation?”

And so, by failing to exercise their powers as a separate branch of government, the Republicans move us one step closer to a very real constitutional crisis.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

2018 update - Paul Ryan is out, AZ races heat up

Breaking news: Speaker Paul Ryan will not run again

The NY Times reports that Speaker Paul Ryan Will Not Seek Re-election in November.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan told House Republican colleagues on Wednesday that he will not seek re-election in November, ending a brief stint atop the House and signaling the peril that the Republican majority faces in the midterm elections.

It could also trigger another wave of retirements among Republicans not eager to face angry voters in the fall and taking their cue from Mr. Ryan.

Back in his Southeastern Wisconsin district, Mr. Ryan was facing a spirited challenge from two Democrats, Randy Bryce, better known by his Twitter handle, “Iron Stache,” and a schoolteacher, Cathy Myers. On his right flank, an avowed anti-Semite, Paul Nehlen, was making another run at the Republican nomination — and earning a national following among white supremacists.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, urged Mr. Ryan to use his last months as speaker to work toward bipartisan compromises.

“With his newfound political freedom, I hope the Speaker uses his remaining time in Congress to break free from the hard-right factions of his caucus that have kept Congress from getting real things done,” he said. “If he’s willing to reach across the aisle, he’ll find Democrats willing and eager to work with him.”

We’ll see.

Updates on AZ races: Governor, CD2, and US Senate

Over at Blog for Arizona, Larry Bodine has done a Herculean job of tracking candidates for state-wide and federal offices. He’s not afraid to make some judgment calls. You may disagree with those calls, but don’t let that distract from reading his reports on the town halls and other appearances.

Bodine’s latest report is on Kyrsten Sinema who he regards as the Democrat who can Beat McSally for US Senate. I don’t agree with many of Sinema’s votes and have been harsh on her in some of my posts, like Kyrsten Sinema wants to be a Senator. Here are reasons why she should not be. On the other hand, she does a hell of a lot better than her likely opponent, Martha McSally: Magically Madeover Moderate Martha McSally votes against transparency and accountability in government.

Bodine reported on the recent Governor forum, Democratic Candidates for Governor call for Full School Funding, Gun Safety and Solar Power. He regards Steve Farley as the best choice - as do I. We also agree on our pick for next best, David Garcia.

Over on the other side …

… or perhaps I should say “dark side.” Bodine covered the Republican candidate forum which the GOPlins did their best to keep secret, Fear Dominates Secret Tucson GOP CD 2 Congressional Candidate Forum. And then Bodine followup up with a link to the audio recording of that event, Listen to the Recording of the Secret Republican CD2 Candidates Forum.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Two views of King Donald the Dangerous

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright asks Will We Stop Trump Before It’s Too Late? She reviews the rise of authoritarians, including our own would-be king, and concludes that “Fascism poses a more serious threat now than at any time since the end of World War II.”

… the possibility that fascism will be accorded a fresh chance to strut around the world stage is enhanced by the volatile presidency of Donald Trump.

At one time or another, Mr. Trump has attacked the judiciary, ridiculed the media, defended torture, condoned police brutality, urged supporters to rough up hecklers and — jokingly or not — equated mere policy disagreements with treason. He tried to undermine faith in America’s electoral process through a bogus advisory commission on voter integrity. He routinely vilifies federal law enforcement institutions. He libels immigrants and the countries from which they come. His words are so often at odds with the truth that they can appear ignorant, yet are in fact calculated to exacerbate religious, social and racial divisions. Overseas, rather than stand up to bullies, Mr. Trump appears to like bullies, and they are delighted to have him represent the American brand. If one were to draft a script chronicling fascism’s resurrection, the abdication of America’s moral leadership would make a credible first scene.

Robert Reich explains why Trump Untethered is a clear and present danger to our democracy in The Truth About an Untethered Trump (also reprinted in this morning’s Daily Star).

The petulant adolescent in the White House – who has replaced most of the adults around him with raging sycophants and has demoted his chief of staff, John Kelly, to lapdog – lacks adequate supervision.

Before, he was merely petty and vindictive … Now his vindictiveness has turned cruel.

“He’s now president for life,” Trump recently said of Xi Jinping, adding “maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.” Some thought Trump was joking. I’m not so sure.

Democracies require leaders who understand that their primary responsibility is to protect the institutions and processes democracy depends on. The new Trump seems intent on maintaining his power, whatever it takes.

Democracies also require enough social trust that citizens regard those they disagree with as being worthy of an equal say, so they’ll accept political outcomes they dislike. The new Trump is destroying that trust.

Trump untethered isn’t just a more petty, vindictive, and belligerent version of his former self. He’s also more willing to sacrifice American democracy to his own ends. Which makes him more dangerous than ever.

Possible bank fraud: FBI raids Cohen office, Trump blows stack.

In case you missed it yesterday, F.B.I. Raids Office of Trump’s Longtime Lawyer Michael Cohen; Trump Calls It ‘Disgraceful’ reported the New York Times, and the Washington Post adds Trump attorney Cohen is being investigated for possible bank fraud, campaign finance violations.

There are two parts to the Times’ story. The first is the FBI raid on Cohen’s office and temporary residence in a Park Avenue hotel. Apparently, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation team found something about Cohen that Mueller judged to be outside of his purview. Whatever that was passed along to the Justice Department and then to the Manhattan prosecutors.

The prosecutors obtained the search warrant after receiving a referral from the special counsel in the Russia investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, according to Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, who called the search “completely inappropriate and unnecessary.” The search does not appear to be directly related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation, but most likely resulted from information that he had uncovered and gave to prosecutors in New York.

In those raids, the FBI seized “business records, emails and documents related to several topics, including a payment to a pornographic film actress”, the latter being a reference to Stormy Daniels.

To obtain a search warrant, prosecutors must convince a federal judge that agents are likely to discover evidence of criminal activity.

The searches are a significant intrusion by prosecutors into the dealings of one of Mr. Trump’s closest confidants, and they pose a dilemma for Mr. Trump. He has dismissed Mr. Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt,” but these warrants were obtained by an unrelated group of prosecutors. The searches required prior consultation with senior members of Mr. Trump’s own Justice Department.

So the FBI action was grounded in permission from FBI higher-ups. This is the most recent item in the list of problems Trump faces.

The searches open a new front for the Justice Department in its scrutiny of Mr. Trump and his associates: His longtime lawyer is being investigated in Manhattan; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is facing scrutiny by prosecutors in Brooklyn; his former campaign chairman is under indictment; his former national security adviser has pleaded guilty to lying; and a pair of former campaign aides are cooperating with Mr. Mueller. Mr. Mueller, meanwhile, wants to interview Mr. Trump about possible obstruction of justice.

Assuming the above, that the raids were legally warranted, Mueller’s action is a help to his investigation in two other ways. The new searches could uncover evidence related to Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Though Mr. Mueller’s team did not initiate the search, if prosecutors in Manhattan uncover information related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation, they can share that information with his team.

And, interestingly, the searches provide evidence that Muller respects the limits on the scope of his investigation.

It is not clear what Mr. Mueller saw that made him refer the matter to other prosecutors. But the searches show that Mr. Mueller does not believe that he has the authority to investigate all manner of allegations against everyone in Mr. Trump’s orbit. That is significant because lawyers for Paul Manafort, a campaign chairman for Mr. Trump who was indicted on money laundering, tax and foreign lobbying charges, have challenged Mr. Mueller’s mandate as overly broad.

The second part of the headline is about Trump’s reaction. Last night Rachel Maddow reported that Trump threw a tantrum (my word) upon hearing of the raids. He then used a meeting with his military and security teams to vent against Mueller, the justice department (Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein), Democrats, (oh, hell no - again!) Hillary Clinton, and, of course, the FBI.

In his tirade against the F.B.I., Mr. Trump mused about the possibility that he might soon fire Mr. Mueller. Last June, the president vented internally about wanting to fire Mr. Mueller, but was talked out of it.

“We’ll see what may happen,” Mr. Trump said Monday. “Many people have said you should fire him.”

The president once again railed against Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, for recusing himself in the Russia inquiry, and blasted the F.B.I. for failing to investigate Hillary Clinton, “where there are crimes.” He criticized Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who is overseeing the Russia investigation, and called Mr. Mueller’s team “the most biased group of people,” who he said were mostly Democrats and some Republicans who had worked for President Barack Obama.

Feeling the pressure, are we?

AZBlueMeanie (Blog for Arizona) IDs “many people” in his post Follow the money: FBI raids the office of Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen:

Pro Tip: “Many people” means the GOPropagandists at FOX News. See Charles Blow today, Horror of Being Governed by ‘Fox & Friends’: “In a way, America is being governed by the dimmest of wits on the most unscrupulous of networks. The very thought of it is horror-inducing.” Trump’s propaganda minister at FOX News, Sean Hannity, will go totally insane over this. Will Trump follow his lead?

The prospects for a “Saturday night massacre” at the Department of Justice to get down to firing the Special Counsel just increased a hundred fold. We are on “Mueller Firing Watch” now.

Monday, April 9, 2018

This is not satire - it's the Mournday Mourning Illustrated News.

NG at border
Trump: NG subs as beautiful wall
  • Teachers paid less now than in 1989? It’s America’s family values on display.
  • Trump struggles with priorities. Military parade? Military to border?
  • New source of fake news: SyncLiar Broadcasting.
  • Sinclair Broadcasting subs “True Lies” for “Fake News”.
  • Latest GOP faction emerges: Chumps for Trump.
  • White House revolving doors: Lawyers in, lawyers out. Staff in, staff out.
  • @RealDonaldTrump: China tariffs just a tool for Trump’s war on Midwest farmers.
  • Can I sue Trump for the trade war hit on my retirement account?
  • Is that all? Of course that’s not all, Silly! Add the crooked paranoid Scott Pruitt to the list of Illustrated News for this Mournday Mourning from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.
Windy
Everyone knows it's Donnie
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bPYT9Vyu62A

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Pruitt is unfit to serve so why is Trump considering him for Attorney General?

The NY Times Editorial Board asserts that Scott Pruitt is unfit to serve.

THE BLIZZARD of ethical questions surrounding Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has become a Category 5 storm. Already facing big questions about his wasteful spending and relationships with lobbyists, Mr. Pruitt intensified his problems by dishonestly blaming his staff for one major ethical failure. Then the New York Times revealed that staffers who tried to rein in Mr. Pruitt’s unnecessary spending were punished. More than ever, it is clear that Mr. Pruitt is unfit to serve.

The Editors provide a summary of Pruitt’s misdeeds. Earlier posts here and here over the last few days in this blog have those details. The Editors close with a scary possibility that answers the question I posed in my headline.

In any normal administration, Mr. Pruitt would be gone. Instead, even as revelations about Mr. Pruitt piled up this week, Mr. Trump was reportedly still entertaining the idea of installing Mr. Pruitt as attorney general, a position for which his primary qualification may be willingness to squelch the Russia investigation. An ideologue who has arrogantly abused his position, Mr. Pruitt does not deserve a promotion. He deserves to be fired.

Update on Pruitt's perks and paranoia

Last evening Rachel Maddow reported that Perks for Pruitt staffers swell list of scandals at Trump’s EPA. In brief, Rachel Maddow rounds up the latest reports on Donald Trump’s scandal-plagued EPA chief Scott Pruitt, including pay raises for his friends on staff, a no-show job for senior counsel Samantha Dravis, and Congressional interest in corruption warnings that went ignored.

Above is the link to the the part of Rachel’s show concerning Pruitt’s scandalous behaviors. It’s rather long (about 14 minutes), but then the list of Pruitt’s travel extravagances and expenses to feed his paranoia is growing. Get caught up now and then you only have to update your list when each additional piece of swamp sh!t hits the fan.