Monday, April 30, 2018

Ducey and GOP leaders agree on teacher pay deal, Goldwater Institute provides details (aka law suit)

Perhaps if you believe in Ducey in the Sky With Diamonds you might see hope in the report that Ducey, legislative leaders arrive at teacher pay deal. Sucker! “No details were divulged.”

Here’s the story from the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required).

Arizona House and Senate leaders have reached a deal with Gov. Doug Ducey on a plan to fund his proposal for a 20-percent pay hike for teachers, but they won’t disclose how they’ll pay for it.

After reiterating his vow to deliver on a pay raise even as teachers marched to the Capitol, Ducey issued a joint statement with House Speaker J.D. Mesnard and Senate President Steve Yarbrough on Friday afternoon that the plan is now a “reality.”

“Today, we are pleased to announce that this plan is a reality. Arizona is delivering on its commitment to our students and teachers,” the leaders said. (Scriber adds: and they said it with straight faces!)

But the announcement, which came on the heels of the “Red for Ed” movement announcing Arizona teachers will press on with their strike next week, didn’t include details. Leaders said they want to brief their members first. Leaders still have to persuade members to support the deal.

Teachers were wary of Ducey’s proposal because it didn’t include a new revenue source, and it relied on rosy economic projections for funding. Other critics noted that the plan, as originally proposed, would sweep funding from other programs to pay for the salary hike. They also doubted whether Ducey can get it through the Legislature.

Ducey makes promises he can’t keep, said “Red for Ed” leaders Joe Thomas and Noah Karvelis. All they have seen is a news release and a tweet from the governor, and that doesn’t indicate a deal, they said in a news release.

"We have no bill. We have no deal,” they said.

Meanwhile, back at the Goldwater Institute, the Koch-bots are threatening the teachers with a lawsuit. Howard Fischer reports Facing lawsuit threat, Arizona teach walkout continues today in the Daily Star.

Scriber’s take on the Goldwater Institute is that they are trying to bully the teachers thus letting the Phouls in Phoenix off the hook.

The walkout by teachers that started Thursday and has affected some 850,000 Arizona schoolchildren is an illegal strike, contends Timothy Sandefur, an attorney for the organization that litigates over conservative causes.

“Public school teachers in Arizona have no legal right to strike, and their contracts require that they report to work as they agreed,” he said.

But the real target of his legal threats are individual school districts, which he contends are facilitating walkouts. That includes everything from closing schools while the teachers and support staff are staying away to refusing to dock the pay of the absent teachers.

The bottom line, Sandefur said, is that not only makes school officials equally guilty of an illegal act but puts them in violation of their constitutional obligations to educate children.

So far, though, the majority of those districts that shuttered their schools starting last week have shown no signs of reversing course, at least for the moment.

In fact, Tim Ogle, executive director of the Arizona School Boards Association, said local board members who have made these decisions are doing the only legally defensible thing. It would be “irresponsible” to open a school building after administrators determines there would not be enough staff to safely supervise the students, much less actually try to conduct lessons, he says.

… the question of whether teachers are striking when they don’t show up at schools gets even trickier.

Many teachers who have not shown up at school are using “personal days,” something they are entitled to in their contracts. And even Sandefur acknowledged that teachers are, in fact, entitled to personal days and even sick days.

And while Gov. Doug Ducey has urged teachers to return to the classroom, he is not a supporter of resolving the issue in court.

“We are interested in solutions, not lawsuits,” press aide Daniel Scarpinato said Sunday.

I just wish he’d be as interested in that devil residing in the details.

Phantastic creatures and where to find them

Topics for the Mournday Mourning Illustrated News from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

  • Overheard: School children singing in a walkout with background music by the Stones.

I can’t get no, oh, no, no, no, hey, hey, hey
That’s what I say
I can’t get no education, I can’t get no education
’Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can’t get no, I can’t get no

  • Wayne LaPierre wants to arm Waffle House waitresses.

  • Trump’s alternative reality: A place where Kakistocrats ride unicorns and covfefe is served by Starbucks.

  • Which of these does not belong among the others? Mick, Scott, Michael, Rudy. (Trick question.)

  • Trump bromances Kim and Macron. One of them tries to persuade Trump, the other plays Trump for Chump.

  • Overheard: Chants coming from the office of the Special Counsel directed at the Senate, with music by …

I can’t get no, oh, no, no, no, hey, hey, hey
That’s what I say
I can’t get no your protection, I can’t get no your protection
’Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can’t get no, I can’t get no

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Supreme Court rules Trump's war on the free press unconstitutional - in 1971.

Our President, Donald Trump, sworn to uphold the constitution, once again, last night, attacked the free press, calling journalists “dishonest” and accusing them of promoting “fake news”. His red meat crowd howled their pleasure as he pointed to the journalists present.

Sometimes it is worth taking a deep breath and contemplating what this is about. I’ve got two sets of quotes to remind us of the stakes here. One is an example of the press reports of Trump’s comments rant from Politico.com. The second is from a 1971 Supreme Court ruling affirming the supremacy of the First Amendment to our Constitution.

Trump’s attack on our free press: “very dishonest people”

Politico reports that Trump vilifies ‘dishonest’ press at Michigan rally. As the White House press corps celebrates at an annual dinner in Washington, the president again demonizes the media at a rally in Middle America.

For the second consecutive year, President Donald Trump vilified the American press at a campaign-style rally orchestrated to effectively counter-program an annual dinner in Washington, D.C., celebrating the work of White House journalists.

“These are very dishonest people, many of them. They are very, very dishonest people,” Trump said at a boisterous event in Washington, Mich., speaking in front of a blue banner emblazoned with the president’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

“Fake news. Very dishonest,” he added. …

Why it matters

Yesterday, before Trump’s rant, the Scribers watched the movie “The Post”. The film reminds us of what the First Amendment is supposed to do. At issue was the publication of The Pentagon Papers by the New York Times and the Washington Post. The two publications asserted their freedom to publish under the First Amendment. The Nixon administration and its lawyers argued that national security interests constrained that freedom. The case went to the US Supreme Court which, rather quickly, decided the case in favor of the newspapers. The announcement of that decision, in the film, was abbreviated so I went looking for the text of the decision. More or less arbitrarily I picked up the text from justia.com. Here are excerpts.

U.S. Supreme Court

New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971)

New York Times Co. v. United States

No. 1873

Argued June 26, 1971

Decided June 30, 1971*

403 U.S. 713

The United States, which brought these actions to enjoin publication in the New York Times and in the Washington Post of certain classified material, has not met the “heavy burden of showing justification for the enforcement of such a [prior] restraint.”

But the majority thinking, expessed by Justices Black and Douglas, in the 6–3 decision is powerful.

Our Government was launched in 1789 with the adoption of the Constitution. The Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment, followed in 1791. Now, for the first time in the 182 years since the founding of the Republic, the federal courts are asked to hold that the First Amendment does not mean what it says, but rather means that the Government can halt the publication of current news of vital importance to the people of this country.

In seeking injunctions against these newspapers, and in its presentation to the Court, the Executive Branch seems to have forgotten the essential purpose and history of the First Amendment. When the Constitution was adopted, many people strongly opposed it because the document contained no Bill of Rights to safeguard certain basic freedoms. [Footnote 1] They especially feared that the new powers granted to a central government might be interpreted to permit the government to curtail freedom of religion, press, assembly, and speech. In response to an overwhelming public clamor, James Madison offered a series of amendments to satisfy citizens that these great liberties would remain safe and beyond the power of government to abridge. Madison proposed what later became the First Amendment in three parts, two of which are set out below, and one of which proclaimed:

“The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments, and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable. …”

In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. In my view, far from deserving condemnation for their courageous reporting, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other newspapers should be commended for serving the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw so clearly. In revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam war, the newspapers nobly did precisely that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do.

… the Government argues in its brief that, in spite of the First Amendment,

“[t]he authority of the Executive Department to protect the nation against publication of information whose disclosure would endanger the national security stems from two interrelated sources: the constitutional power of the President over the conduct of foreign affairs and his authority as Commander-in-Chief. …”

In other words, we are asked to hold that, despite the First Amendment’s emphatic command, the Executive Branch, the Congress, and the Judiciary can make laws enjoining publication of current news and abridging freedom of the press in the name of “national security.” The Government does not even attempt to rely on any act of Congress. Instead, it makes the bold and dangerously far-reaching contention that the courts should take it upon themselves to “make” a law abridging freedom of the press in the name of equity, presidential power and national security, even when the representatives of the people in Congress have adhered to the command of the First Amendment and refused to make such a law.

… To find that the President has “inherent power” to halt the publication of news by resort to the courts would wipe out the First Amendment and destroy the fundamental liberty and security of the very people the Government hopes to make “secure.” No one can read the history of the adoption of the First Amendment without being convinced beyond any doubt that it was injunctions like those sought here that Madison and his collaborators intended to outlaw in this Nation for all time.

The Court’s decision is just as relevant today as it was decades ago - and I assert even more so. We have now a President at war with most of our institutions, including the press. He is backed by a majority of both chambers of Congress, a “conservative” majority on the Supreme Court, and a vocal minority of the populace. These are exactly those conditions foreseen by the Founding Fathers. The free press, protected under the First Amendment, is the ultimate check on governmental power over the governed. Members of the press are not “dishonest”. They do not dispense “fake news”. Rather, they are doing their constitutionally mandated job of serving as a check on executive and legislative excess. Trump’s rhetoric and actions amount to “injunctions like those … that Madison and his collaborators intended to outlaw in this Nation for all time.”

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The leftward shift in AZ CD8 - What it is ain’t exactly clear

In the recent Arizona CD 8 special election, the Voucher Vulture Queen Debbie Lesko beat Democratic new-comer Hiral Tipirneni by only 4.8%. That’s in a solid Republican district in which Obama lost to Romney 25% and Clinton lost to Trump by 21%.

Writing in Blog for Arizona, AZ Blue Meanie says ‘There’s something happening here …’. We know that. The interesting aspect of the AZ race, as well as other Democratic gains around the country, is the rest of the lyric (from For What It’s Worth, by Buffalo Springfield): "What it is ain’t exactly clear.”

Inferring cause and effect in social science research is tricky. There are lots of variables at play in a social phenomenon like an election. As in any scientific experiment, what you have to do to conclude causality is to eliminate all other possible causes of the phenomenon. All? That’s a tall order. But we can settle for eliminating most of the alternative possibilities thus leaving us to conclude a probable cause. And that’s what the Blue Meanie’s sources have done. Here’s a run-down.

(1) Republican and Democratic voters turned out at about the same rate …
(2) … which suggests that voter enthusiasm in the two groups was about the same.
(3) Candidate quality (regardless of what Scriber thinks of Lesko) was arguably the same for both candidates. From one of the sources cited by AZBlueMeanie, a Washington Monthly article: "… Republicans had a good candidate in Lesko. She had no major scandals and raised plenty of money. One of the excuses in previous elections that Republicans lost like Alabama US Senate (with Republican Roy Moore) and Pennsylvania 18 (with Republican Rick Saccone) was that the Republican was either scandal plagued or didn’t know how to raise funds. Lesko wasn’t either of those, and there was still a significant shift to the left.

So the conclusion, after ruling out other possibilities, is that “A lot of registered Republicans are showing up and voting for the Democratic candidate.” That may account for the average 17 point shift leftward nation-wide in the votes cast in the elections since 2016.

The Blue Meanie concludes:

Clearly there were substantial Republican cross-over votes for the Democrat Hiral Tipirneni. The Tipirneni campaign, the Arizona Democratic Party, the DCC and its pollsters need to survey Republican voters in CD 8 to find out why they crossed over to vote for Tipirneni. It has to be something more than the fact that she is an attractive and well qualified serious candidate who offered voters in CD 8 a clear alternative to the GOP candidate for the first time in many years.

Whatever that “something’ is, Democrats need to learn what it is, and fast.

Tipirneni’s surprising and exceptional performance with a grassroots campaign funded by small donors, without the financial support of the DCCC and other Democratic aligned outside groups, should now attract their financial support for the November general election. Tipirneni is within less than 5 points of Debbie Lesko now. This is a doable margin to overcome with a solid ground game infrastructure and a well-financed ad campaign, something no Democratic candidate has enjoyed in this heavily Republican district in decades.

In CD8, and likely in other districts as well, we are at a tipping point, a Tip-irneni point so to say. We are now 50 years from the 1968 election when the Buffalo Springfield song was popular. It’s time, finally, to bend the arc of history. Or, as Martin Luther King put it: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Now is the time for the DCCC and other Democratic organizations to weigh with both financial feet to make AZBlueMeanie’s vision a reality:

This special election should sound a warning alarm to other Republicans in Arizona congressional, statewide and legislative races. Your decades-long stranglehold over this state may finally be coming to an end.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Thank you Fox and Friends for the 30-minute Trump rant

Full Trump ‘FOX & Friends’ Interview: Ronny Jackson, Michael Cohen, Mueller, North Korea, Comey, Kanye reports RealClearPolitics on Trump’s half hour rant Fox & Friends.

President Trump called into ‘Fox & Friends’ Thursday morning for almost half an hour to discuss Dr. Ronny Jackson’s withdrawal, Michael Cohen, and the possible North Korea summit. Also, the president said he is disappointed in his Justice Department, called Comey’s book a big mistake and thanked Kanye West for his support.

RCP was too kind. It was a half hour of Trump yelling (yes, yelling over the phone) about his favorite topics and contradicting what he has said previously about his non-relation with Michael Cohen. The three hosts looked like deer caught in the headlight. In the end, one of the hosts overtalked Trump and Fox shut him down in mid-sentence. The abrupt end suggested to Lawrence O’Donnell that the signal to stop came from on high (aka Rupert Murdoch), perhaps motivated by the damage Trump was doing to his own legal defense.

Chris Cillizza at CNN has The 53 most stunning lines from Donald Trump’s ‘Fox & Friends’ interview.

Minutes after his nominee to head the Veterans Affairs department withdrew from consideration amid a maelstrom of negative headlines, President Donald Trump called into his favorite show on his favorite network: “Fox & Friends” on Fox News Channel.

And he talked. And talked. And talked.

It was an emotional roller coaster as Trump was, at turns, calm, angry and everything in between. I went through the transcript and picked out the 53 most memorable lines.

One of my favorite - meaning most disturbing - lines was his threat against Justice.

“I’ve taken the position – and I don’t have to take this position and maybe I’ll change – that I will not be involved with the Justice Department. I will wait until this is over.”

Cillizza comments:

HUGE news. The President of the United States saying that he has previously not meddled in Justice Department business but threatening that if they keep up this course of action – presumably meaning the Russia investigation – he could change his mind on that.

Yet more evidence that he either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that Justice has traditionally existed largely independently from the Executive Branch. And, I can’t emphasize this enough: The President is threatening Justice to change direction – or else.

Here is another related one.

“And our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from, but at some point I won’t.”

Third time’s a charm! And, if you look up “threat” in the dictionary, you get something very like that sentence above.

And here Trump digs himself in deeper with comments on Michael Cohen.

“(Michael Cohen) represents me – like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal he represented me.”

Wait. Trump just admitted for the first time that Cohen represented him in the Stormy Daniels case. Remember that Trump had previously said he knew nothing about the $130,000 payment Cohen made to Daniels. And he said he knew absolutely nothing about the broader case, referring all questions to Cohen. So…..

So … the sound you hear is Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti licking his chops at Trump’s continuing self-inflicted legal damage.

Twitter › MichaelAvenatti
Thank you @foxandfriends for having Mr. Trump on this morning to discuss Michael Cohen and our case. Very informative.

RCP plays the whole interview.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Phouls in Phoenix attack AZ teachers

AZ teachers are on strike with good reasons. One reason is recalcitrant Governor Doug Doozy whose not so hidden message on education funding is my way or the no way. Another reason is the Phouls in Phoenix (aka legislators) who have consistently directed public money away from education and into the pockets of corporate special interests.

See Linda Lyons’ post in this blog this morning, A perfect haboob. We are in the middle of a great dust storm eroding public education in our state. Linda makes the pitch for what I see as the only solution.

Ultimately, no matter what happens between now and our Primary election on August 26th, and the General on November 6th, Arizona’s voters will have the final say. My most sincere hope is that they will use that say to elect candidates at all levels, who understand education is an investment, not an expense. Candidates who understand that quality companies care about more than a tax credit, they want quality schools for their employee’s children, they want an educated workforce and they want modern, well-maintained infrastructure. Candidates who understand that they work for the people, ALL the people, not just those who are from the same party or support them with campaign contributions.

Arizona teachers will take a brave stand tomorrow, one that does not come without cost to them personally. The best thing we can do to support them, is to work to bring more parity to our Legislature, forcing all sides to be heard and all good ideas to be considered. To do this, we need only flip two seats in the AZ Senate and 5 seats in the House.

Arizonans understand we aren’t getting the results we want from our Governor and Legislature. We have the power to make positive change. Let’s hope we wield it wisely and forcefully.

If you need more reason for cleaning out the Phouls in Phoenix, check out AZBlueMeanie’s post this morning, AZ GOP response to #RedForEd ranges from ‘class warfare,’ to suing teachers, to McCarthyism. That’s why we can expect nothing from the AZ GOP. They are the ones who vote on their own constitutional failure.

(BTW a while back I defined phouls this way: a Phoul is variously defined as a foolish ghoul or a ghoulish fool. Either is correct. Phouls reside in Phoenix and dine on the flesh of our social institutions that serve the young, poor, and sick.)

Trump's cabinet picks unraveling the fabric of America amidst a culture of corruption

You might remember my simple formula that describes Trump’s cabinet picks. For example, X-AntiX case study: EPA regs on the chopping block. “For a given agency X, pick as its leader someone who is fiercely antiX. Then sit back and watch the carnage.” I’ll get back to the EPA shortly.

I was worried about HUD Secretary Ben Carson, because doing nothing would violate my X/antiX rule. I should have kept the faith. It was just a matter of time. Carson was a bit slow to get started, but here he goes.

538’s Significant Digits email contains this gem.

35 percent
A Department of Housing and Urban Development proposal would hike the rents of people living in federally subsidized housing. Currently these residents have to pay 30 percent of their adjusted income as rent, but the new rules would hike that up to 35 percent of gross income. This will affect roughly half of the 4.7 million families who receive housing benefits. [The Washington Post]

The Post reported that HUD Secretary Ben Carson to propose raising rent for low-income Americans receiving federal housing subsidies.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson proposed far-reaching changes to federal housing subsidies Wednesday, tripling rent for the poorest households and making it easier for housing authorities to impose work requirements.

Carson’s proposals, and other initiatives aimed at low-income Americans receiving federal assistance, amount to a comprehensive effort by the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress to restrict access to the safety net and reduce the levels of assistance for those who do qualify.

And with that Carson has jumped on the AynRandian wagon with both feet, kicking those who are already down. That’s just the beginning of the Trumpian assault on the safety net.

Trump earlier this month signed an executive order directing federal agencies to expand work requirements for low-income Americans receiving Medicaid, food stamps, public housing benefits and welfare. …

The next two significant digits are reported by your Scriber.

Here’s a story by Christine Todd Whitman, who served as EPA administrator under President George W. Bush, and is a former governor of New Jersey.

100
Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is among Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. Influence is a valenced concept. Pruitt made the Time’s list for his negative, not positive, influence. [Scott Pruitt]

The Environmental Protection Agency has been instrumental in improving our nation’s air, land and water quality. From the inaugural Clean Air Act of 1970 to the Brownfields Program and Great Lakes cleanup, the EPA has established antipollution standards, cleaned up contaminated sites and provided safe drinking water to millions of people. These achievements merely scratch the surface of the EPA’s positive impact on the environment and human health at large.

Until recently, decades of scientific research on climate change formed the springboard for the EPA’s protective and effective measures. However, under the administration of Scott Pruitt, the agency is experiencing a new wave of policymaking—or rather, policy dismantling. (He has already dismantled the Clean Power Plan, which would have regulated carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector, and is now targeting vehicle-emissions standards.) If his actions continue in the same direction, during Pruitt’s term at the EPA the environment will be threatened instead of protected, and human health endangered instead of preserved, all with no long-term benefit to the economy.

And when Pruitt is not doing that stuff, he’s spending tax dollars feeding his paranoia with a 20-man security team, a supposedly secure telephone booth, and first-class air fare. Why first class? He is afraid of us - the people he is sworn to serve. Despicable.

1300
That’s the number of bankers attending a talk by Budget Director Mick Mulvaney - who also doubles as acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Mulvaney lectured them on the desirability of spending lots of money on getting Washington to do their bidding for their bidness. He should know. As a congressman, Mulvaney had one rule for lobbyists: pay to play. Trump’s culture of corruption continues to surprise. [MSNBC/MaddowBlog]

With unusual candor, Mulvaney talks about selling access to lobbyists writes Steve Benen.

Mick Mulvaney. Donald Trump’s budget director and the acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has been quite busy lately – but not in a good way.

The far-right Republican has not, for example, been busy protecting Americans’ financial interests. On the contrary, Mulvaney has effectively stopped all enforcement actions at the CFPB, while also taking outrageous steps to help the payday-loan industry.

Instead, Mulvaney has been busy moving in the opposite direction. He’s been working on changing the name of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection – critics believe he’s trying to lower the agency’s profile and make it less accessible – while also advancing a plan to make it harder for American consumers to file complaints against financial institutions suspected of abuses.

Mulvaney has also been busy giving advice to bankers on their political activities in the Trump era. The New York Times reported overnight:

He told banking industry executives on Tuesday that they should press lawmakers hard to pursue their agenda, and revealed that, as a congressman, he would meet only with lobbyists if they had contributed to his campaign.

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mr. Mulvaney, a former Republican lawmaker from South Carolina, told 1,300 bankers and lending industry officials at an American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

Cynics who assume the worst of federal officials often suspect members of Congress sell access to lobbyists, but it’s exceedingly rare to hear a prominent politician brag about such corruption in public.

Indeed, as part of his presentation to bankers, Mulvaney talked about additional steps he wants to take to weaken the agency he leads, and he encouraged the financial industry to help him in this endeavor by making campaign contributions that would enhance their influence on Capitol Hill.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a federal policymaker describe a pay-to-play scheme in such explicit terms. It’s almost cartoonish in its malevolence: Mick Mulvaney, a uniquely powerful official, wants to undermine American consumers’ interests in order to help big banks, and to that end, he also wants the financial industry to buy politicians’ attention — which he believes is for sale based on his own previous conduct as a member of Congress.

This, according to Mulvaney, is key to lobbying success in the Trump era.

It’s been a very long time since Americans have seen a culture of corruption this brazen. There was a time when we’d expect to hear comments like Mulvaney’s picked up on a wire as part of a law-enforcement sting operation; now the nation’s budget director feels comfortable making comments like these in public, in front of a room full of corporate allies.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Perfect Haboob

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

There are a lot of unique things about living in Arizona and our storms rank near the top. I know, I know, people who don’t live here are thinking what storms, thought it is always sunny and hot? Well, there is that, but we also have our crazy monsoon rains and wild walls of dust called “haboobs”, an Arabic word meaning “blown”.

According to Arizona’s ABC15.com, “Haboobs are giant walls of dust created from high winds rushing out of a collapsing thunderstorm. Cold air in front of the storm rushes down at an incredible rate, picking up massive amounts of dust and sand and blowing them into the air.” A 2011 haboob in Phoenix, was almost a mile tall and stretched across the entire valley, over 50 miles long. These storms can stretch as far as 100 miles wide and are dangerous not only to drive in, but to just be outside in, as rocks and debris thrown around by winds of up to 50 mph can be dangerous, and bad air quality causes many people difficult breathing.

What’s going on with public education right now in Arizona feels a lot like that. First of all, our Governor and Legislature have turned a cold shoulder to the crisis facing our teachers and the districts they serve. The assault on our public schools has been fast-paced and fueled by out-of-state monied interests like the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity and Betsy DeVos’ American Federation for Children, despite overwhelming support for our public schools from Arizonans. And, all of this serves to obscure the real truth, which is that the focus on tax cuts and the push to privatize, are draining our public schools of available resources, making it very difficult for them to “catch their breath” and make the strides our state needs.

CD8 results - GOPlins claim 5.2% victory, Dems see it as a 15% defeat for Trump

Debbie Does Donald. Or perhaps it is Donald Does Debbie.

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
Arizona, please get out today and vote @DebbieLesko for Congress in #AZ08. Strong on Border, Immigration and Crime. Great on the Military. Time is ticking down - get out and VOTE today. We need Debbie in Congress!
11:02 AM - Apr 24, 2018

That did not save his 2016 margin. In fact, it seems that Trump support may have helped the Democratic challenger.

Here are the Arizona Special Election Results: Eighth House District from the NY Times.

CANDIDATE PARTY VOTES PCT.
Debbie Lesko Republican 91,390 52.6%
Hiral Tipirneni Democrat 82,318 47.4%
173,708 votes, 100% reporting (143 of 143 precincts)

Observe the point spread: 5.2%.

Tuesday’s special election in Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District, in the conservative suburbs outside Phoenix, revealed the depth of Republicans’ political challenges in 2018. Ms. Lesko was favored to win over Hiral Tipirneni, a Democrat and emergency room doctor, in a district that supported Donald J. Trump in 2016 by more than 20 points.

Even so, national Republicans spent more than $1 million to help Ms. Lesko. With an outcome this close in a district that should have Republicans winning big, it is another sign of Democratic enthusiasm, organizational muscle and determination to send a message about President Trump and his party.

In CD8 the ratio of Republican voter registration to Democratic voter registration is about 1.70. In the election results, the ratio of votes cast shrunk to 1.11.

More: the Times report includes a stunning graphic, Shift from 2016 Presidential Election. Each precinct, without exception, shifted blue.

No matter what, Debbie Does DC. And once there, it will be Debbie Does DeVos. The latter prediction is certain given Lesko’s role as Queen of the Voucher Vultures.

We have another shot at this. Remember in November.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Today's CD8 election is a bit of a cliff hanger

Ronald Hansen tells us Everything you need to know about Tuesday’s Arizona special election for Congress in the The Republic.

Today, April 24th, voters in CD8 head to the polls to see who will fill the US House seat vacated by Trent Franks.

On Tuesday, voting ends in the special election to replace Franks, the veteran House Republican who resigned in December amid a sexual-misconduct scandal. Republican Debbie Lesko is the favorite to replace him because of her party’s 17-percentage-point registration advantage in the district.

But at a time when independents, and even some Republicans, nationally are increasingly wary of the GOP, Democrat Hiral Tipirneni has mounted a serious challenge to Lesko.

How close is the race? Recent polls show anything from Lesko winning by 10 percentage points to Tipirneni by 1.

The election offers Democrats a long-shot possibility of narrowing GOP control of the House.

But a Lesko win by small numbers, say, less than 10 percentage points, is sure to be an ominous sign about Republican prospects in the fall elections. Right now, Democrats need to win 23 seats to retake the chamber.

If Tipirneni attracted 20 percent of Republicans and won independents by just 10 percentage points, she could lose 10 percent of her party’s voters and still be within 5 percentage points of Lesko.

How the party loyalists and independents come down will determine whether the race ends as an underwhelming Republican performance or a Democratic shocker that would reshape Congress even before November’s elections.

So. Stay glued to the tube tonight.

James Comey on Trump's emptiness and hunger for affirmation

Do a google search for “narcissist trump” and you’ll find lots of opinion about Donald Trump’s personality. Some would (and have) called it a personality disorder. But recently I came across a lay analysis that I think is most apt of all in an interview by New Yorker editor David Remnick with former FBI director James Comey, JAMES COMEY ON HIS INFAMOUS DINNER WITH TRUMP. David Remnick speaks with James Comey about the “emptiness” of Donald Trump and whether the President is fit for office.

Following is an excerpt from the New Yorker transcript. The time markers are from the video and Comey’s answers are highlighted in italics.

01:56 Now, you said earlier today in an interview
01:58 that you don’t hate the President.
02:00 You don’t even dislike him.
02:03 I’ll let that pitch go by.
02:04 (laughing)
02:05 You know it’s funny, my wife asked me the same question
02:07 after she saw the interview.
02:08 And the answer is I dislike many of things he does.
02:15 Him as a person I actually, this is gonna sound odd,
02:17 I actually kind of feel sorry for.
02:19 How so?
02:20 I think, I’ve said this before, it’s a hard thing to say,
02:24 but I think he has an emptiness inside of him
02:27 and a hunger for affirmation I’ve never seen in an adult.
02:30 (laughing)
02:31 And I’m not saying that to be funny.
02:33 I think that he lacks external reference points,
02:37 and instead of calling, making hard decisions
02:40 by calling upon a religious tradition or logic
02:42 or tradition or history, it’s all what will fill this hole.
02:47 You think something’s missing?
02:48 Something is missing in his life that has created
02:51 this orientation that I’ve never,
02:52 I meant when I said I’ve not seen in an adult before.

Monday, April 23, 2018

This Week's Illustrated News

Mission Accomplished
Mission (Nearly) Accomplished

Here are some of the themes from AZ Blue Meanie’s toons for this Mournday Mourning. Oops. I meant Illustrated News.

  • Education: Duplicitous Doug’s unfunded unicorn
  • Ryan leaves Washington in shambles
  • McConnell the Monkey sees no evil, hears no evil, speaks lots of evil
  • Tricky Donald follows Tricky Dick roadmap to impeachment
  • Guiliani: Last lawyer standing
  • Trump, Cohen, Hannity: Who is leading the parade?
  • MafiAmerica enabled by Trump’s Russian mob connections
  • The Trumpification of America

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.