Thursday, May 31, 2018

Education Funding...the devil is in the details

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com

One of the issues leading to the walkout during the #RedforEd movement, was Governor Ducey’s promise of a 20% raise by 2020 ONLY for teachers. The movement wanted the definition of “teacher” expanded and pay raises for all school personnel. That’s because teachers understand their’s is a broad profession, and although quality teachers are the number one in-school factor contributing to student success, every employee in a school district, whether a “defined” teacher or not, contributes to the ability of students to learn.

There is currently though, no consistent definition of “teacher” in Arizona. The 2018–2019 K–12 budget reconciliation bill, HB 2663, K–12 education; does not define “teacher”. The previous year’s budget bill defined “teacher” as: "any person eligible to be included as a teacher on a disrict’s FTE count submitted with its annual financial report, whose salary was paid under function code 1000 (instruction). Clear as mud, right?

The definition in Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S) 15–901(B)(5), says a “Certified teacher” means a person “who is certified as a teacher pursuant to the rules adopted by the state board of education who renders direct and personal services to school children in the form of instruction related to the school district’s educational course of study and who is paid from the maintenance and operation section of the budget.” Okay, so that is a little clearer, but how is teacher compensation impacted by legislation passed last year to allow non-certified teachers to teach in Arizona public schools? Guess that means fewer raises for teachers as those more qualified continue to exercise their “school choice” to either retire or move to another state so they can earn a living wage. Just in case you didn’t see it, here’s a story about Texas buying up billboards in Arizona to lure our teachers away.

Yet another definition of “teacher” comes from the AZ Attorney General (AG) Opinion 101–014 on the Classroom Site Fund (Prop. 301 monies). The AG wrote that, “teacher” was not limited to traditional classroom teachers. “School districts and charter schools may use such funds for compensation increases for certified or certificated teachers and others employed to provide instruction to students related to the school’s educational mission.” An employee receiving base compensation from Prop. 301 monies would also be eligible to receive a salary increase as a teacher.

According to the AZ Auditor General, school boards would meet the Legislature’s intent by using any of the above three definitions. The Arizona School Boards Association, Arizona Association of School Business Officials, and Arizona Superintendents Association, all believe the Classroom Site Fund definition is the most defensible position and most consistent with legislative intent. That definition, as interpreted by the courts and the Arizona AG’s office, requires certification and employment as a teacher and that at least 50% of an individual’s time is spent on instruction central to the school’s educational mission.

Arizona Educators United and the Arizona Education Association‘s sought to resolve the disconnect by demanding a broader definition of “teachers”, permitting the award of raises to more school personnel. To that end, Representative Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma submitted an amendment“seeking to expand the definition of “teachers” - those eligible for the pay hike - to include counselors, social workers, psychologists, speech pathologists and librarians, all people excluded from getting a share of the earmarked raises.” Unfortunately, the amendment failed on party lines.

As reported on Tucson.com, TUSD Superintendent Trujillo said he intends to spread the new money around to all “educators” who touch the lives of children. “I see us supporting the educators as defined by this movement, those that are touching the lives of kids and working directly with kids. It’s about the monitors, it’s about teachers, it’s about the counselors, it’s about the custodians, it’s about the secretaries at our schools, it’s about the office assistants,” he said.

The $272 million in included in the FY 2019 budget for teacher raises is roughly enough to give all “certified” teachers in the state a 9 percent pay increase. It also includes an “additional” funding of $100 million in District Additional Assistance (DAA), previously known as “capital funding”, which is meant for big ticket items like new AC systems, patched roofs, buses, and computers. Although Governor Ducey orginally sold this as a way to begin to restore the 85% of this funding that was cut since 2009, the #RedforEd movement caused him to also sell it as a way to increase salaries for all support employees.

Please let that sink in for just a moment. Governor Ducey knows Arizona’s district schools have a tremendous backlog of deferred maintenance and repair for both facilities, vehicles and technology because the Legislature has cut $2.4 billion from public school capital budgets. He is proposing to restore most of that funding over 5 years, but education advocates aren’t banking on it, continuing with the capital funding lawsuit filed in 2017. 

The Legislature has tried their best to make hay with the fact that district governing boards are largely responsible for deciding how the funding is spent within their respective districts. Although there is a fair amount of legal guidance on how the funding may be used, they are correct that local control dictates elected governing board members make decisions about funding allocation. These decisions are appropriately left to them because they best know the needs of their district and they are closest to the students, families, voters, and taxpayers to whom they are accountable. But, and this is a BIG but, governing boards can only allocate funding their districts receive and even with the $400 million plus-up in FY 2019, our districts will still be short of 2008 funding levels by almost $700 million per year. Cue mike drop.

Kids and jobs are reasons why the 2018 election is 'Code Red'

code red
n.
1. A condition of heightened alertness or preparedness, especially to guard against imminent danger.
2. A warning of or signal indicating imminent danger.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition.)

The “iminent danger” is the possibility of two more years of Donald J. Trump as president king.

Thomas Friedman just hit the panic button in his New York Times op-ed Sounding Code Red: Electing the Trump Resistance.

With the primary season winding down and the midterms soon upon us, it’s time to point out that this election is not about what you may think it’s about. It is not a choice between the particular basket of policies offered by the candidates for House or Senate in your district or state — policies like gun control, right to choose, free trade or fiscal discipline. No, what this election is about is your first chance since 2016 to vote against Donald Trump.

As far as I am concerned, that’s the only choice on the ballot. It’s a choice between letting Trump retain control of all the key levers of political power for two more years, or not.

If I were writing the choice on a ballot, it would read: “Are you in favor of electing a majority of Democrats in the House and/or Senate to put a check on Trump’s power — when his own party demonstrably will not? Or are you in favor of shaking the dice for another two years of unfettered control of the House, the Senate and the White House by a man who wants to ignore Russia’s interference in our election; a man whose first thought every morning is, ‘What’s good for me, and can I get away with it?’; a man who shows no compunction about smearing any person or government institution that stands in his way; and a man who is backed by a party where the only members who’ll call him out are those retiring or dying?”

If your answer is the former, then it can only happen by voting for the Democrat in your local House or Senate race.

To Friedman, nothing else even comes close to getting Democrats elected to Congress in November.

Because what we’ve learned since 2016 is that the worst Democrat on the ballot for the House or Senate is preferable to the best Republican, because the best Republicans have consistently refused to take a moral stand against Trump’s undermining of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Civil Service, the basic norms of our public life and the integrity of our elections.

These Republicans have made the craven choice to stand with Trump as long as he delivers the policies they like on tax cuts, gun control, fossil fuels, abortion and immigration, even though many privately detest him.

It is up to the Democrats to say and do the opposite: To understand that as long as Trump is president, he’s unlikely to sign any legislation a Democratic majority in Congress would pass — but that’s not their job for the next two years. Their job is to protect America from Trump’s worst impulses.

Their job is to get hold of at least one lever of power — the House or the Senate — in order to oust the most corrupt Republican lawmakers who lead key committees, to properly oversee the most reckless cabinet secretaries, like Scott Pruitt, and to protect the F.B.I., the Justice Department and Robert Mueller from Trump’s intimidation.

Friedman is not exactly a raving liberal. He discloses his conservative side:

I don’t write this easily. On many non-social, non-environmental issues, I’m not a card-carrying Democrat. I favor free trade, fiscal discipline, pro-business regulations, a democracy-expanding foreign policy, and I have an aversion to identity politics.

But all of that is on hold for me now, because something more fundamental is at stake: It’s not what we do — it’s who we are, how we talk to one another, what we model to the world, how we respect our institutions and just how warped our society and government can get in only a few years from a president who lies every day, peddles conspiracy theories from the bully pulpit of the White House and dares to call our F.B.I. and Justice Department a “criminal deep state” for doing their job.

So that’s why I have only one thought for this election: Get power. Get a lever of power that can curb Trump. Run for the House or the Senate as a Democrat; register to vote as a Democrat; help someone else register to vote as a Democrat; send money to a Democrat; canvass for a Democrat; drive someone to the polls to vote for a Democrat.

Democrats are never going to win the news cycle from Trump. He’s an attention-grabbing genius. But they can, and must, out-organize him, out-run him, out-register him and out-vote him.

Nothing else matters now.

In the end, I don’t want to see Trump impeached, unless there is overwhelming evidence. I want to see, and I want the world to see, a majority of Americans vote to curtail his power for the next two years — not to push a specific agenda over his but because they want to protect America, its ideals and institutions, from him — until our next presidential election gives us a chance to end this cancer and to birth a new G.O.P. that promotes the best instincts of conservatives, not the worst, so Americans can again have two decent choices.

Again, this is Code Red: American democracy is truly threatened today — by the man sitting in the Oval Office and the lawmakers giving him a free pass.

Here is what Code Red means for you in this election. If you stay home because the Democratic candidate for US Senate is not progressive enough for you, then you cast a vote for Trump-enabler Martha McSally. If you stay home because your favored CD2 candidate did not win the primary, then you cast a vote for bankruptcy queen Lea Marquez-Peterson. If you vote “green” instead of Democratic, then you have wasted your vote and effectively cast your vote for Republicans who are aligned with Trump. We need to Dump Trump. Period. And that means defeating those who are now, or aspire to become, courtiers in thrall to Trump, the would-be king.

Now let me nominate the two reasons mentioned in my title.

Displaced workers need a “jobs guarantee”

Why? The AZBlueMeanie this morning posted about Economic disruption and a federal ‘jobs guarantee’. He did a very thorough job of laying out the possibilities and advantages and he chronicled previous attempts to pass such legislation and future prospects. You can read about all that but here I focus on the current rationale for doing something PDQ and point you to some possibilities being floated by Democratic lawmakers.

Hundreds of thousands, even millions, of workers are about to lose their jobs courtesy of automation. To be concrete, a few years ago several high-end restaurants were built on one of the concourses in the Minneapolis airport. At each seat there was installed the equivalent of a tablet that contained the entire menu and beverage listing. To place my order, I just made the selections as I would using an App on my iPad. After using the tablet to pay via credit card, my meal arrived promptly. No waiter. No waitress. Just the tablet. Multiply my experience by a hundred other diners and (swoosh!) there went a handful of wait-staff jobs.

The Blue Meanie reports on some of his discoveries.

In Indianapolis, about 338,000 people are at high risk of automation taking their jobs, according to a new report. In Phoenix, the number is 650,000. In both cases, that’s 35% of the workforce. In northeastern Ohio, about 40,000 workers are at high risk.

By the numbers in Indianapolis and Phoenix:

As a group, restaurant workers — food service workers, waiters and cooks will lose the most jobs, followed by retail sales people and cashiers. Their average salary is about $32,000 a year (compared with about $67,000 for 300 low-risk occupations).

Among those at highest risk: Cashiers have a 97% risk of losing their job to automation; and office workers like secretaries and administrative assistants at 96%. Food servers in Indianapolis are at 94%.

Among the lowest risk: Registered nurses have less than a 50% chance of being automated out of their job.

Women are disproportionately affected in both cities:

They are 58% of the workers in high-risk fields in Phoenix and 55% in Indianapolis.

They dominate the food and retail industries, office work and cashiers.

The Blue Meanie cites Matthew Yglesias at vox.com on possible solutions.

The idea, which exists in different forms, is that the government ought to accept responsibility for ensuring that everyone who wants to work can get a job — directly hired by the public sector if necessary.

The idea dates back at least to French socialist Louis Blanc’s mid–19th-century plan to establish “national workshops” to guarantee employment to the poor. Franklin Roosevelt in his 1944 State of the Union address spoke of establishing “the right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation,” and the concept is enshrined in the United Nations’ universal declaration of human rights. And now Democrats are increasingly talking about bringing the idea back.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) broadly endorsed the concept of government-sponsored jobs for all who need them in March, Sen. Cory Booker (NJ) unveiled a specific plan for a jobs guarantee pilot program last week, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who managed to get through an entire 2016 primary campaign full of ambitious policy proposals without a jobs guarantee, now says he’s preparing to unveil a plan for one soon.

The Blue Meanie concludes:

Economists at least are exploring ways to address the economic disruption of the information age. Our politicians need to begin to address these issues in a thoughtful and serious manner. Tariffs to protect romanticized old industries, or punishing the poor with work requirements in order to receive federal assistance when they have few prospects of gainful employment in some areas of the country are not thoughtful and serious answers. They are merely punitive.

Do you think that Trump and his aligned members of Congress will buy into massive intervention in the next two years? While Trumpists try to buck the long-term decline in coal, the workers are left with promises but no guarantees.

The horror of Trump’s immigration policies

Trump’s immigration policies are my nomination for the second reason why we must vote Democratic in order to Get Power. The Intercept published a report on the Hidden Horrors of “Zero Tolerance” - Mass Trials and Children Taken from Their Parents.

FEDERAL MAGISTRATE JUDGE Ronald G. Morgan is in his 60s, with a bright-pink face and a crisp, friendly manner — though lately he has been making disconcerting little mistakes in court. He has spent eight years on the bench in Brownsville, a small Texas city on the U.S.-Mexico border. Morgan knows how to run a court smoothly, but during a morning session I attended in early May, he announced that he’d just dealt with 35 defendants — all at one time — when the actual number was 40. And after the proceedings, he forgot to pronounce their guilt. Marshals had already led them out, so Morgan sheepishly had to call the 40 defendants back to the courtroom to correct his error. These days, he seems distracted and troubled.

That is understandable. In late April, magistrates’ courts in Brownsville suddenly turned into “zero tolerance” factories for criminalizing migrants, many of whom have no prior criminal record. Many are from murderously violent countries in Central America and have fled to the U.S. seeking asylum, and they often arrive with children in tow. It used to be rare to charge migrants seeking asylum with crimes. If they did so, they were put into detention with their children while they pursued their claims. Or they were released with supervision — along with their children. The best interests of the children were considered paramount, and those interests including keeping families together.

But now, in federal courts like Morgan’s, not only are parents are finding themselves charged with the crime of “illegal entry,” but the government is breaking up families, sending children to detention centers, often hundreds of miles from their mothers and fathers, or to distant foster homes.

Another parent who appeared in Morgan’s court was from a Central American country that provides no meaningful protection to women and children who are victims of homicidal domestic violence. She asked for her identity to be concealed, because she fears retaliation by the U.S. government. We will call her Delia. Before fleeing her country, she was for years beaten up, cut, assaulted with guns, and threatened with death by her partner. He also threatened to kill their young child. When she hid in another city, he found her and dragged her home.

Delia said she fled her country weeks ago and went on the road to Mexico, eventually crossing the Rio Grande with her child on an inner tube. She saw three Border Patrol agents watching her and floated in their direction, so she could turn herself in.

Delia said that when she arrived later that night at the hielera — the Border Patrol processing office — she told the officers that she and her child needed asylum. She described the beatings and assaults and death threats. “Oh, come on!” she said the officers snickered. “You and everyone else with that old story!”

“You’re going to be deported,” she remembers them telling her. “And your child will stay here.” The next morning, the child was taken. Delia fell on her knees during the removal, wailing and begging not to be separated. Officials looked on indifferently, she said, as her child screamed incessantly.

For more, you can read The Intercept report … and weep.

And, as far as reasons go, this is scratching the surface. Interference in the Russia investigation. Attacks on our law enforcement institutions. Corrupt business practices of the Trump dynasty. The intentional dismantling and destruction of essential government services. Actions against womens’ reproductive rights. It goes on and on and on.

Whoever makes it out of the primaries, if they are a Democrat you vote for them. Friedman is right. It’s the only way we are going to stop the clear and present danger to our democracy posed by King Trump and his GOPlins.

P. S.

This morning Bob Lord posted on The Democratic Dilemma in Blog for Arizona. What it takes to win elections as a Democrat makes hard-core progressives puke. In the short run, the argument goes, we pick up congressional seats. But in the long we compromise our progressive principles. I get that. For the clearest example of such a candidate I offer Kyrsten Sinema (AZ CD9 Rep. now running for US Senate) profiled by opensecrets.org.

Here is the heart of Lord’s case.

Should one of the two strategy camps prevail? I hope so, eventually. I’m a believer in the progressive approach. But I favor it not because I dismiss the old school approach entirely. Rather, I think the old school approach is beneficial only in the short-term. Yes, in any given election, it can work. But there’s a trade-off. If a progressive candidate runs and inspires a bunch of new voters, but loses, there’s still a lasting benefit. I was inspired at age 16 by George McGovern, and here I am, as an aging boomer, still progressive in my views. If an old school candidate runs and wins the votes of just enough “swing-voters” to eke out a win, far fewer new voters are inspired and the immediate benefit, an additional House or Senate seat, likely will be lost in the future.

And here is the essential question for 2018. Would you rather have Sinema or McSally in the Senate? One votes with Trump about half the time. The other votes with Trump close to all the time. You will get one of them. Choose.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Why progressives and Christian Nationalist supporters of Trump do not communicate

Back in October of 2016 I explained why reasoning with Trump supporters is impossible in Seven things we know about Trump’s supporters. Here’s the short of it.

It’s not a pretty picture. They really do live in a different universe. Here’s the scoop from SemDem at Daily Kos, If You Tell Me You Are Supporting Trump, I Already Know Seven Things About You. I’ll list the seven things but you need to read SemDem’s post to get the reasons for them (beyond the short takes I provide in parens below).

  • You want to be ruled, not governed. (authoritarian like Putin = anti-American)
  • You have no class. (Mocking disabled people and vets)
  • You are definitely not someone to do business with. (OK with Trump’s lies)
  • You are either a racist, or at best, have no problem with racism. (people who don’t look like you are criminals)
  • You have an issue with women. (you also believe women are “pigs” and “dogs”)
  • You aren’t really Christian. (a bully with several wives and several affairs)
  • You don’t believe in the Constitution. (Trump promises to trash the bill of rights)

If you don’t think these seven points define an alternative universe, here is an excerpt from Jimmy Kimmel’s Lie Witness News on YouTube. Having made up their minds, anything, anything at all that Trump says or does can be rationalized by Trump supporters. And that is why civil discourse with most of them is not possible.

My mind on this matter remains unchanged. Nothing in the intervening year and a half provides any evidence that Trump supporters are receptive to reasoning - beyond, perhaps, a few anecdotes gathered without followup.

Below is a longer essay I’ve been writing over the last couple of days on Trump supporters and why communication with them fails.


Here’s the NY Times Quote of the Day (May 28, 2018).

“Progressive? That’s just another word for godless.”
THE EVANGELIST FRANKLIN GRAHAM, who is leading a three-bus caravan through California, one of the biggest political battlegrounds this year, to urge evangelicals to vote and win the state for Jesus.

You can read the full story at the NY Times’ report, The Evangelical Fight to Win Back California. It’s worth reading that article in a larger context presented in the Times’ exposé of A Christian Nationalist Blitz (h/t Sherry Moreau). For the record, I disclose that I am 100% opposed to everything the Christian Nationalists propose and opposed to every belief that leads them to their anti-secular actions. We’ll get back to that.

Rules for talking to the other side

But first I would like to here feature a different article from wired.com. Jason Pontin, an Ideas contributor for WIRED, proposes Four Rules for Learning How to Talk to Each Other Again. (Also for the record, I disclose that I am not a fan of the civil discourse movement, but we’ll get back to that too.) Here is the list of Pontin’s rules.

Here’s how to speak in a polity where we loathe each other. Let this be the Law of Parsimonious Claims:

  1. Say nothing you know to be untrue, whether to deceive, confuse, or, worst of all, encourage a wearied cynicism.

  2. Make mostly falsifiable assertions or offer prescriptions whose outcomes could be measured, always explaining how your assertion or prescription could be tested.

  3. Whereof you have no evidence but possess only moral intuitions, say so candidly, and accept you must coexist with people who have different intuitions. (In fact, most of this column falls under this rule.)

  4. When evidence proves you wrong, admit it cheerfully, pleased that your mistake has contributed to the general progress.

Finally, as you listen, assume the good faith of your opponents, unless you have proof otherwise. Judge their assertions and prescriptions based on the plain meaning of their words, rather on than what you guess to be their motives. Often, people will tell you about experiences they found significant. If they are earnest, hear them sympathetically.

I suspect that many of my readers will recognize Pontin’s four points as a rendition of Occam’s razor (according to the Wiki entry, Occam’s razor).

Occam’s razor (also Ockham’s razor or Ocham’s razor; Latin: lex parsimoniae “law of parsimony”) is the problem-solving principle that, when presented with competing hypothetical answers to a problem, one should select the answer that makes the fewest assumptions. The idea is attributed to William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), who was an English Franciscan friar, scholastic philosopher, and theologian.

In science, Occam’s razor is used as a heuristic guide in the development of theoretical models, rather than as a rigorous arbiter between candidate models. In the scientific method, Occam’s razor is not considered an irrefutable principle of logic or a scientific result; the preference for simplicity in the scientific method is based on the falsifiability criterion. For each accepted explanation of a phenomenon, there may be an extremely large, perhaps even incomprehensible, number of possible and more complex alternatives. Since one can always burden failing explanations with ad hoc hypotheses to prevent them from being falsified, simpler theories are preferable to more complex ones because they are more testable.

This last bit is critical. That’s what conspiracy theorists do. Wikipedia defines ‘conspiracy theory’ :

According to the political scientist Michael Barkun, conspiracy theories rely on the view that the universe is governed by design, and embody three principles: nothing happens by accident, nothing is as it seems, and everything is connected. Another common feature is that conspiracy theories evolve to incorporate whatever evidence exists against them, so that they become, as Barkun writes, a closed system that is unfalsifiable, and therefore “a matter of faith rather than proof”.

Pontin’s rules, and Occam’s razor, work only if both parties agree on those as a framework for discussion. If one party offers “a closed system that is unfalsifiable, and therefore ”a matter of faith rather than proof", and the other party subscribes to parsimony, testability, and falsification, then civil discourse fails - at least fails most of the time.

A Christian Nationalist Conspiracy

In that context, let’s look at the Christian Nationalist “blitz”. Here are snippets.

America’s Christian nationalists have a new plan for advancing their legislative goals in state capitols across the country. Its stated aim is to promote “religious freedom.” Not shy, they call it “Project Blitz.”

“Blitz” accurately describes the spirit of the enterprise, but the mission has little to do with what most Americans would call religious freedom. This is just the latest attempt by religious extremists to use the coercive powers of government to secure a privileged position in society for their version of Christianity.

“ ‘Project Blitz’ Seeks to Do for Christian Nationalism What ALEC Does for Big Business,” reads the headline of a recent piece Frederick Clarkson wrote for Religion Dispatches that highlighted the danger. ALEC, of course, is the corporate lobbying group that crafts and promotes model legislation advancing business interests.

In their guidebook for state legislators and other allies, the authors of the Project Blitz program have grouped their model legislation into three categories, according to anticipated difficulty of passage. The first category consists of symbolic gestures, like resolutions to emblazon the motto “In God We Trust” on as many moving objects as possible (like, say, police cars).

The second, more difficult category for Project Blitz consists of bills intended to promote the teaching and celebration of Christianity in public schools and elsewhere. These bills are a means of spreading the message that Christian conservatives are the real Americans, and everybody else is here by invitation only.

The sponsors of Project Blitz have pinned their deepest hopes on the third and most contentious category of model legislation. The dream here is something that participants in the conference call referred to in awed tones as “the Mississippi missile.” The “missile” in question is Mississippi’s HB 1523, a 2016 law that allows private businesses and government employees to discriminate, against L.G.B.T. people for example, provided that they do so in accordance with “sincerely held religious beliefs.” The bill offers extraordinary protections, not to all religious beliefs per se, but to a very narrow set of beliefs associated mostly with conservative religion. If you hold a different set of religious beliefs, like, say, a commitment to gender and L.G.B.T. equality, there is no liberty in this bill for you.

What Christian nationalists know — and many of us have yet to learn — is that you don’t need a majority to hijack a modern democracy. You just need a sizable minority, marinating in its grievances, willing to act as a bloc, and impervious to correction by fact or argument. Make this group feel good about itself by making other people feel bad about themselves, and dominion may well be in reach.

All this strikes me as being directly contrary to Pontin’s rules. The “blitz” is not designed to foster any kind of mutual understanding and respect. Instead it is a political bludgeon wielded by a minority, a weapon meant to beat the American majority into submission. This is what happens when we let national policy succumb to moral assertions disguised as facts.

There is a story going around, on both the left and the right, that America’s “true believers” are a declining force and are now conducting desperate, defensive maneuvers in a secularizing society. But that is not how the leaders of the Christian Nationalist movement see it — because it is not true. They played a key role in putting President Trump in power. They are protecting him now, as they giddily collect their winnings in legislatures and in the courts. …

And that brings us to why communicating with Trump supporters is futile.

If Trump supporters could speak, we could not understand them

America Magazine (among many other sources) explores the difficulty of communicating between species in If a Lion Could Speak.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, the twentieth century’s great philosopher of language, famously wrote, “If a lion could speak, we would not be able to understand him.” That’s how he debunked the very possibility of science fiction’s “universal translator,” the instrument we would presumably, someday, use to converse with aliens. Anything can be translated, more or less, from one language into another. Wittgenstein said that this was possible because all human languages are based upon our common humanity. All humans hunger, feel pain, know joy and boredom, which is why our experiences can be translated from one language to another. But what do we know about the world of the lion, which is to say, as the lion herself experiences it? What can we make of her power to smell? Do we even inhabit the same world as those who walk upon it with four feet?

When considering different species’ perception-action systems, the answer is “no.” I grant you that Trump supporters, and Christian Nationalists, are not species different from progressives but for purposes of mutual understanding and communication they might as well be.

National columnists like Leonard Pitts Jr., writing at the Miami Herald, routinely receive pretty nasty emails. Pitts explains in No, it’s not the economy, stupid. Trump supporters fear a black and brown America (reprinted in the Daily Star as “Trump supporters speak”).

We’re going to try something different today. Rather than pontificate yet again upon the motives of Donald Trump’s supporters, I’ll let a few of them explain themselves in their own words.

Here, then, is “Robert” with a comparative analysis of the 44th and 45th presidents:

“President Trump has accomplished more positive things for this nation in less than two years than the last three have accomplished in twenty plus years. After the past eight years of a Muslim Marxist in the White House this nation could not survive another demwit in the White House. … Could you please list one thing the demwit party has done for the black people in America other than hand out government freeies for their continued votes?”

And here’s “Gary’s” take on demographic change:

"[America] has a constitution which guarantees equal rights for all and yet people like you hungar for change that puts people like me in the back of the bus. You seem egar to know what it would be like to be in the driver’s seat. You need look no further than Zimbabwe and South Africa. When people like you started driving the bus, the wheels came off. That’s what terrifies people like me.”

This column is presented as a service for those progressive readers who are struggling with something I said in this space. Namely, that I see no point in trying to reason with Trump voters. I first wrote that over a month ago, and I am still hearing how “disappointed” they are at my refusal to reach out. So I thought it might be valuable to hear from the people I’ve failed to reach out to.

I’m sure some of you think those emails were cherry-picked to highlight the intolerance of Trump voters. They weren’t. They are, in fact, a representative sampling from a single day in May, culled by my assistant, Judi.

It’s still an article of faith for many that the Trump phenomenon was born out of fiscal insecurity, the primal scream of working people left behind by a changing economy. But I don’t think I’ve ever, not once, seen an email from a Trump supporter who explained himself in terms of the factory or the coal mine shutting down.

… let us be clear-eyed and tough-minded in assessing what’s happened to our country — and why. How else can we salvage it from the likes of “A Trumper” who says Trump was needed to “get things back in order” after the “terrible job” done by President Obama?

He wrote: “We’re sick of paying welfare to so many of your brothers who don’t know what work and integrity mean. I hope you keep writing these articles and reminding my White Christian brothers that we did the right thing and we need to re elect Trump.”

I have two words for those progressives who think it’s possible to “reason” with that:

You first.

Now you know, I hope, why I think communicating with Trump supporters is futile and that Christian Nationalism is a threat to our democracy. They speak but do so in a different language, one that violates every one of Pontin’s four rules of communication.

In closing, let me ask of you two things. First, go back to my two main themes, Trump supporters and Christian Nationalists and evaluate them in the context of Pontin’s rules.

Second, from here onward, do the same evaluation of Scriber’s posts. Pontin’s rules can be usefully applied to most journalistic endeavors and that includes my own.

Monday, May 28, 2018

What will America be doing on November 4, 2020? See the Illustrated News for possibilities.

Here are my picks for the Mournday Mourning Illustrated News, courtesy of AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

On the morning of November 4, 2020,
America will wake up to one of its possible futures.
American Alternatives
America's Future
If you do the "thoughts and prayers" thing
after each school shooting,
you should consider the company you keep.
Thoughts and prayers are what you do for you.
They do nothing for the kids next in line to be shot.
Thoughts and prayers
Thoughts and Prayers

Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Diane Douglas has to go

It’s been a while since I checked on AZ K–12. I did not like what I found. The Daily Star reported that Arizona educators consider altering evolution references. Here are a few snippets to give you the flavor of what’s going on.

The Arizona Department of Education is considering changes to school science standards, including instances when it may remove or alter references to evolution. The state’s superintendent of public instruction said the proposed changes reflect that parts of evolution are only theory.

The department has replaced some references to evolution with words like “biological diversity” or added qualifiers to the word, according to a draft of the proposed changes.

The standards focus on core science and engineering ideas that teachers then use to form curriculum for public school districts and charter schools, according to the department.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas told KTVK-TV that her personal beliefs like creationism are not projected onto the draft changes.

As Mike Wallace used to say: “Oh, come on!”

I used to think that what we’ve got at the top of K–12 is an airhead. Not any more. I just don’t like anything that’s in Diane Douglas’ head.

This last week Tucson Weekly education columnist David Safier chronicled The Evolution and Devolution of Diane Douglas.

Diane Douglas Devolving
Douglas Devolving

You might recall the contest for Superintendent of Public Instruction. On the D side, we had David Garcia - a US Army vet, a University of Chicago Ph D., and now a faculty member at ASU. He knows lots about education administration. On the R side, we had Diane Douglas, former member of Peoria school board. She managed to dodge interviews, perhaps because she knew nothing about education administration.

Like many of us, Safier thought there was no way for Douglas to win. Her opponent was too qualified and she was so obviously unqualified. And when she did win, we feared the worst.

… I was certain when she took office, she would adopt the racial animus of her predecessors, Horne and Huppenthal, and plunk a pile of soggy teabags on top of their mess.

To my surprise, when Douglas took office, she seemed properly awed by the weight of her responsibility. While she tweaked Ducey and the State School Board mercilessly in the first months of her term, which I thoroughly enjoyed, she adopted a light touch when it came to schools. She didn’t attack TUSD as her predecessors did. She didn’t tear into International Baccalaureate, sex education, history texts, evolution or any of the other right wing bête noires. Instead, she embarked on an education listening tour around the state, where she actually listened. She put out a publication full of mostly sensible suggestions for improving the state’s education system.

I was one of the few people writing from the left who reviewed Douglas favorably, for a few reasons. First, I was mightily relieved. She could have been much, much worse. Second, I thought her educational priorities were generally nonpartisan, pro-teacher and pro-student.

Then came September, 2016, when Trump was in the last month of his campaign. Before then, Douglas pretty much stayed out of electoral contests. This time, she shouted her support for Trump from the rooftops, in a news release sent out via the state email system.

Uh oh.

By 2017, Douglas was in full Trumpian mode. When she released information about Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (aka Voucher on Steroids) to the Arizona Republic, the data revealed hopelessly sloppy record keeping of students’ individual accounts. When the Republic called her on it, she played her Trump card. She called the paper’s criticism “Fake news” and complained about the paper’s “hack media lawyer.”

And now, Douglas and her team have removed references to evolution from the state science standards. In the past she said Intelligent Design should be taught in schools. When she was reminded of her earlier statement in recent stories, her response was, “Fake news.” Of course.

Who knows what we’ll see from Douglas in the next few months? And if she wins a second term in November …

If evolution falls, can the fall of International Baccalaureate—and fact-based history, and reading controversial fiction, and respecting religious pluralism, and upholding gender-neutral policies, and all those other Commie/Socialist features of our government schools—be far behind?

About that graphic above? One of the commenters on Safier’s post wrote “That graphic dehumanizes Ms. Douglas. I would say it’s beneath you, but I rather doubt it is.”

It’s not beneath me.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Kings and queens in the board room - CEO pay study outs a royal ripoff

I already knew that “Female CEOs remain scarce at the biggest publicly traded companies” and I guessed that they would be underpaid relative to male CEOs. Bad guess on my part because “those who hold the top job receive pay competitive with male peers.

Women make up only 5 percent of the CEO ranks at S&P 500 companies. Yet median compensation for a female CEO was valued at $13.5 million for the 2017 fiscal year, versus $11.5 million for their male counterparts, according to an analysis by executive data firm Equilar done for The Associated Press.

The Equilar analyses were reported in two articles in the AZ Daily Star (tucson.com) (h/t Dean Chaussee).

Women CEOs still a rarity, but pay tops that of men breaks down compensation by gender and For CEOs, $11.7 million a year is just middle of the pack compares CEO pay with that of the average worker in S&P 500 companies.

Two issues highlighted by these reports are worth exploring. First, there is the question of why female CEOs are still so rare.

“The inability to push seasoned females up the ranks is tragic in my mind,” said Josh Crist, managing director at executive search firm Crist Kolder Associates.

A Pew Research Center study found that women held only about 10 percent of top executive positions at publicly traded companies in the much larger Standard & Poor’s Composite 1500. Of that group, the women tended to be in finance or legal positions that research shows are less likely to lead to the CEO office.

Companies are seeking diversity, both in gender and ethnicity, for their leadership, Crist said. But getting diverse talent at the top takes time because of the change needed throughout the organization.

Part of the problem is that big companies can be slow-moving, said Drew Silver, a researcher at Pew. The female CEOs in charge now have been in their careers for 20 or 30 years, so their rise reflects the corporate culture of the 1980s. He worries real change will take years.

Brande Stellings, senior vice president of advisory services at Catalyst disagrees. She said companies that make the decision to change have been able to do so quickly.

The differentiator is not generation or time, but it’s how much does it matter to the leader or organization,” she said. “When someone asks to make the business case for diversity, that case is out of the gate. They are more into the how.”

The second issue revealed in the Equilar study is the magnitude of CEO pay. The numbers, compared to those of the average worker, are staggering, mind-blowing, and just plain obscene.

Chief executives at the biggest public companies got an 8.5 percent raise last year, bringing the median pay package for CEOs to $11.7 million. Across the S&P 500, compensation for CEOs is often hundreds of times higher than typical workers.

The pay increase matches the bump that CEOs received in 2016, according to salary, stock and other compensation data analyzed by Equilar for The Associated Press.

For the first time, the government required companies to show in their annual proxy statements just how much more bosses make than the typical employee. The typical CEO made 164 times the median pay of their employees, according to Equilar’s analysis.

The NY Times explored this ratio of CEO to worker pay in Want to Make Money Like a C.E.O.? Work for 275 Years. Let’s follow the Times and express the ratio as the number of years an employee would need to work in order to earn the same amount of money as the CEO does in just one year.

Time Warner: 651 years. Walmart: over 1000 years. Live Nation Entertainment, the concert and ticketing company: 2893 years. Mattel, the toy company: 4987 years.

"It’s grotesque how unequal this has become,” said Louis Hyman, a business historian at Cornell University. “For C.E.O.s, it’s like they are winning the lottery year after year. For a lot of Americans, they don’t have any savings. When they lose their job, they lose everything.”

… critics of rising income inequality are quick to point out that sustained low wages can lead to reduced economic growth and marginalize large swaths of the population. Disposable income is needed for a healthy economy, and people need the time and resources to take care of themselves and their families.

"Particularly in low-wage jobs, people are struggling to pay for housing, for health insurance, for child care,” said Jennifer Gordon, a law professor at Fordham University. “When people are working two and three jobs and are not able to put together a decent wage, then at a very basic level they don’t have time to be active in their children’s schools, they don’t have the ability to engage in their local politics.”

And still, executive pay, already excessive in the eyes of many critics, rises.

Among the 160 companies of that group that revealed pay ratios, the median compensation for chief executives was also $17.5 million. In contrast, workers earned $75,217, a decent salary in a country with a shrinking middle class, but one that further demonstrates the growing gap between the C-suite and the typical employee. Equilar calculated that the median pay ratio disclosed by these companies was 275 to 1.

But the upward trend in CEO pay is insidious.

In 2017, the median pay for the 200 highest-paid chief executives was $17.5 million, and they received an average raise of 14 percent, compared with 9 percent in 2016 and 5 percent the year before that.

So, in terms of the 2014 CEO dollar, these large percentage raises compound, 1.05 x 1.09 x 1.14 = 1.305, that is, a 30% increase in just the most recent three years alone.

"The top layer of management live like kings and queens while the people at the bottom are scrabbling for a decent existence,” Ms. Gordon said. “We should not have that in a society where equality and fairness supposedly matter.”

But we have it.

As the level of income inequality creeps upward, year after year, we are reminded of the case of the frog that becomes accustomed to the rising temperature in its pot of water and eventually boils to death.

Or, perhaps “the top layer of management” who “live like [mostly] kings and [a few] queens” would say of their workers “scrabbling for a decent existence”, Let them eat cake.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Trump outs himself on why he attacks the press - to 'discredit' and 'demean'

Wednesday, May 23, 2018, This Week featured an interesting exchange with Trump recalled by Lesley Stahl: Trump reportedly told CBS’s Lesley Stahl he attacks the press so ‘no one will believe you’

The Washington Post has documented more than 3,000 false or misleading claims President Trump has made during his time in office, but that hasn’t stopped him from frequently attacking news organizations as “fake” and “failing,” even as he apparently revels in their attention. 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl asked Trump about his frequent press-bashing before her interview with him right after the 2016 election, she explained at the Deadline Club Awards in New York on Monday. His answer stuck with her.

Stahl’s 13 Emmys didn’t prevent Trump from attacking the press, even though there were no cameras on and it was just Stahl and her boss in Trump’s office, she explained to PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff and the audience. "I said, you know that is getting tired, why are you doing this? You’re doing it over and over and it’s boring. … He said, ‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.’ He said that. So put that in your head for a minute." You can watch her comments [here].

Friday, May 25, 2018

538 considers the possibilities - a 2018 Republican House and a 2020 Trump win

Regarding this year’s election, 538’s Perry Bacon asks What Happens If Republicans Keep Control Of The House And Senate?

Imagine this scenario: In November’s elections for the U.S. House, Democrats win the national House vote by a few percentage points and gain nearly 20 additional House seats,1 by both winning open seats and defeating some longtime GOP incumbents. In the Senate, Democrats pick up Nevada; win races in states President Trump carried in 2016, including in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and West Virginia; and only narrowly lose in the GOP strongholds of Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee.

That sounds like a pretty good night for Democrats. But it wouldn’t be. That scenario would leave Republicans with a majority of, say, 222–213 in the House and a 51–49 advantage in the Senate.

Don’t get me wrong — I share the view of other analysts that Democrats are favorites to win the House this fall, and that an accompanying Democratic win in the Senate is somewhat less likely. But based on the data we have now, the scenario above is certainly possible — just as possible as, say, Trump being elected president and Republicans winning both houses of Congress on Nov. 8, 2016.

That potential outcome didn’t get enough coverage in the run-up to the 2016 election. So let’s avoid repeating that mistake in 2018. How would the political world react if Republicans maintained control of Congress in November? I can’t say for sure, but here are four likely responses.

  • Renewed GOP attempts to shrink government
  • Weakening of the investigations against Trump
  • A Democratic freakout
  • A media reassessment
Trump 2020?
Scary thought!

You can track the details in Perry’s post, but one theme seems to be Trump as a 2020 candidate. Even though he remains unpopular and polling indicates that most Americans prefer Democratic control of the House, it is conceivable that Trump will run and even win. As Bacon put it, “it’s worth thinking through the repercussions of various 2018 outcomes, even relatively unlikely ones. As we all should have learned by now, unlikely isn’t the same as impossible.”

So …

Bacon also tells us When Trump Should Start Worrying About A 2020 Primary Challenger.

My take-away is that he most likely has no cause for worry. A solid majority of Republicans still like Trump ins spite of having to defend his personal scandals, reckless mouth-offs, persistent attacks on our government and institutions, and slithering toward an autocracy. But read on. Snippets follow.

Thirty-eight percent of Republicans believe President Trump should face a GOP primary challenger in the 2020 election, according to a Morning Consult/Politico poll released this week. Fifty percent said he should not; the other 12 percent did not express an opinion.

Other polls have also shown that a significant bloc of Republicans would like to see someone challenge Trump. But it’s hard to know what to make of that 38 percent number. We found a few polls that asked somewhat similar questions about past presidents,1 and there’s a bit more intraparty opposition to Trump than some others, but not much.

… Trump should be hoping he is not challenged in a primary. But will it happen anyway?

Is Trump so weak that of course another Republican should challenge him? I’m not sure. … about a third of Democrats wanted someone to challenge Bill Clinton according to a CNN poll conducted in late 1994, but no one ever did, and Clinton cruised to re-election.4 In a March 2010 CNN poll, 20 percent of Democrats wanted a candidate other than Barack Obama. He too never received a serious primary challenge and won re-election.

Trump’s standing in the party now: When congressional Republicans defend controversial things Trump does or says, political analysts (myself included) often explain the logic behind the officials’ actions by noting that Trump has rock-solid support among self-identified Republican voters, close to 90 percent in some surveys. Many congressional Republicans, particularly those who are seeking re-election, have every incentive not to criticize the president, at least according to his raw approval ratings in the party.

I’m always wary of emphasizing the GOP opposition to Trump, since it had much more bark than bite in 2016 (Trump won the overwhelming majority of Republican voters despite the media attention given to the “Never Trump” bloc in the party). Even this data suggests that Trump is the heavy, heavy favorite to be the GOP nominee. But we should be watching carefully to see if Trump draws a Republican opponent next year — it’s the telltale sign of a weak incumbent president.

If Dems do not take the House in 2018, the country will go from bad to worse. And if Trump wins in 2020, the country will go from worse to much worse.

America spreads its gun mania, an infectious disease, to Mexico

As I posted yesterday, America’s love of guns is a sickness that results in 55 times more fatalities than in other developed countries. Rather than treating that sickness, America tolerates mass shootings in its K–12 schools that result in the murders of its children. In terms of the stages of grief model, our country is in acceptance, content to offer thoughts and prayers rather than to seek effective treatments for that sickness.

Yes, I do mean to characterize the nation’s love of guns as an infectious disease. Like other contagions, it respects no borders. As evidence, I offer an item from the 538’s Significant Digits email.

1 gun store
There’s only one place to officially buy guns in Mexico, and it’s on a military base. Yet gun violence is on the rise in the country. So where are the guns coming from? Mexico’s northern neighbor. An estimated 580 weapons illegally move from the U.S. to Mexico every day. Compare that to the 38 guns that the country’s sole gun store sells every day. [The Los Angeles Times]

The LA Times investigates in its report, There is only one gun store in all of Mexico. So why is gun violence soaring?.

The only gun shop in all of Mexico is behind a fortress-like wall on a heavily guarded military base.

To enter the Directorate of Arms and Munitions Sales, customers must undergo months of background checks — six documents are required — and then be frisked by uniformed soldiers.

The army-run store on the outskirts of Mexico City embodies the country’s cautious approach to firearms, and a visit here illustrates the dramatically different ways two neighboring countries view guns, legally and culturally.

Like the 2nd Amendment in the United States, Mexico’s Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, but it also stipulates that federal law “will determine the cases, conditions, requirements and places” of gun ownership. For many Mexicans, even those who love guns, the thought of an unfettered right to owning one is perplexing.

… About 70% of guns recovered by Mexican law enforcement officials from 2011 to 2016 were originally purchased from legal gun dealers in the United States, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Most trafficked guns are purchased in the U.S. from one of the country’s more than 67,000 licensed gun dealers or at gun shows, which unlike stores often do not require buyers to present identification or submit to background checks.

Hugo Gallegos Sanchez, 32, a police officer in Mexico City, decided to purchase a handgun at the store for personal use because he was concerned about rising crime.

“You need protection,” Gallegos said.

He spent months waiting for his paperwork to be approved, but said he was happy to wait. Proper screening for gun owners is important, said Gallegos, who said he also supports Mexico’s ban on heavy assault weapons.

“A civilian shouldn’t be able to have the same power as the military,” he said.

What is the US doing to stop the spread of our disease to Mexico?

President Enrique Peña Nieto brought the issue up at a news conference with Trump shortly before the 2016 presidential election, blaming the influx of U.S. firearms for “strengthening the cartels and other criminal organizations that create violence in Mexico.” Candidates vying to replace him in Mexico’s July 1 presidential race are also using it as a rallying cry.

Instead of threatening walls, instead of threatening to militarize the border, we demand that they stop the flow of arms from the United States to Mexico,” Ricardo Anaya of the National Action Party said recently in the violence-ridden border state of Tamaulipas.

[Gun control advocates on both sides of the border] are also concerned about a new Trump administration proposal to deregulate the export of American guns by putting the Commerce Department in charge of the application process instead of the State Department, which advocates say is better suited to weigh the possible risks of firearm sales against any benefits.

The proposed rule change, which is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, has long been sought by gun companies eager for easier access to international markets …

So the answer to that question is that the US is making it easier for the infection to spread to our southern neighbor. Our official policy is to spread our gun mania, our national disease, to other countries.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Playing Pogo with our kids' lives - When it comes to mass shootings, it's the guns, stupid.

When it comes to mass shootings at our schools, I confess I do not have a label to describe the sickness let loose in our land. But perhaps we can converge on a cause if we practice some science and eliminate alternative explanations. This is exactly what Chicago Tribune’s columnist Rex Huppke does. He takes an evidence-based look at the unlikely causes of school shootings in Santa Fe school shooting, Ritalin and the NRA’s culture of convenient excuses. (The AZ Daily Star carried the column under a different title.)

Huppke starts with a culture of violence supported by video games.

Retired Lt. Col. Oliver North, the incoming president of the National Rifle Association, said on “Fox News Sunday”: “The problem that we’ve got is we’re trying like the dickens to treat the symptom without treating the disease, and the disease in this case isn’t the Second Amendment. The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence. …

The “our culture is causing mass shootings” argument is compelling and can sound reasonable on a visceral level. But it’s based on emotion, not reality.

According to global marketing firm Newzoo, the five countries that spend the most money on video games are: China, the United States, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Using data from 2016, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington found that the rate of violent gun deaths per 100,000 people in those countries is: 0.06 for China, 3.85 for the United States, 0.04 for Japan, 0.12 for Germany and 0.07 for the United Kingdom.

Another way to look at these numbers is that the the gun death rate in the US is 55 times greater than that in other developed countries. For every one gun death in China, Japan, Germany, and the UK, there are 55 such deaths in the US.

Violent video games are available everywhere, but America’s gun violence rate is staggeringly higher than those other top video-game-purchasing countries.

Culture, Schmulture, Ollie North.

How about other factors that might cause gun deaths in America, like losing our religious principles? Nope.

… A Pew Research Center study found that a little more than half of Americans say religion is very important in their lives. Does that indicate moral decay that would turn boys into monsters?

Look at the other countries referenced above. In China, only 3 percent say religion is very important. Japan is only 11 percent. The United Kingdom and Germany are both at 21 percent. In Canada, only 27 percent of people think religion is very important in their lives.

Our level of religiosity [50 percent] is high compared with those countries, but our gun violence problem is off the charts.

If anything, getting religion gets you shot.

Abortion? Same story.

… According to data from a study released this year by the Guttmacher Institute, the number of abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 49 in the United States was 13. The rate was the same in the United Kingdom. Sweden had a higher abortion rate at 18 per 1,000 women, but there were only 41 people shot to death there last year.

Violent movies? Those are shown in other countries that have minor to nonexistent gun violence problems.

These cultural factors can all be concerning in their own right, but they aren’t to blame for America’s gun violence epidemic. If they were, other countries would have the same problems.

There’s only one significant factor that separates America from places like England and Japan and Germany and Sweden: We have an illogical number of easily accessible guns.

Personally, I’d like to melt all the guns down, forge a giant steel statue of a hand making a rude gesture then place the statue directly outside the NRA’s headquarters. But I realize that’s wildly unrealistic and, truth be told, embarrassingly childish.

So let’s talk about stronger enforcement of existing gun laws, a return of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, limiting the size of gun magazines or a federal safe storage law that might help prevent cases like Santa Fe, where the teenage shooter was able to access his father’s guns.

And let’s listen to suggestions on making schools safer. When the lieutenant governor of Texas wasn’t reciting canned lines about cultural issues, he made a reasonable point about limiting the number of ways students can enter a school, allowing school officials a better chance to screen people.

On this last point, when I grew up, we learned to fear a nuclear holocaust triggered by a misstep on the part of one or both of the world’s nuclear powers: the US and the USSR. The current generation of school children in the US has been taught to fear getting shot by another student with access to high powered rifles. In my school days, the fear of getting bombed had a real external source: Russia. In today’s schools, the fear of getting shot is caused by an internal source – what we have done and are still doing to ourselves. We are trading protection of our beloved guns against the murder of our less-loved children.

Huppke concludes: “Without a doubt, we have met the enemy and he is us.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Quote of the Day

Dear Creationists: You can peddle your fairy tales in our public schools if we can teach science in your Sunday schools

From David Fitzsimmons’ Facebook page.

The bankruptcy back-story on CD2 candidate Lea Marquez-Peterson

Lea Marquez-Peterson is almost everywhere a business and political social climber could possibly want to be. She is the executive director of the Greater Tucson Leadership, chairwoman of Pima County’s Small Business Commission, a member of the city’s Convention Center Commission, and past president and member of the board of the local chapter of National Association of Women Owned Business.

She is an expert, chosen for the exclusive citizen’s panel of the Regional Transportation Authority, which will determine the next countywide transportation scheme and the sales tax to pay for it. The Arizona Daily Star selected her to quiz political candidates three years ago, and she continues to be a go-to person for the Star on many matters of business. Fortune further boosted her image with an article quoting her on management styles in the publication’s May 2002 Small Business Issue.

35, she has two business degrees, a pile of awards and friends in high places.

After serving on the Greater Tucson Leadership board, Marquez-Peterson became its executive director in February. “As a leader in the Tucson community, Lea is a great match for our organization,” said Jean McKnight Guymon, then the group’s president.

The press release about that appointment asserted that Peterson “is a successful business leader.”

Those snippets reflected the common, conventional takes in 2005 about Marquez-Peterson as reported in a 2005 Tucson Weekly story.

Now, 13 years later, Marquez-Peterson is running for the US House of Representatives Arizona CD2 seat. And she still touts her creds as a savvy business woman. Here is what she claims about herself on her campaign web site.

Lea Marquez Peterson is a lifelong conservative Republican and a passionate, active community leader with a proven record of delivering results in both the private and public sectors.

Since 2009, Lea has served as President & CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She previously served as the Executive Director for Greater Tucson Leadership (GTL) from 2005 to 2009.

An entrepreneur and small business owner, Lea previously owned and operated a chain of gasoline stations & convenience stores in the Tucson region.

She goes on to list numerous awards.

Sounds good? A tough competitor in the fiscal conservative mold? A seasoned and successful Latina business woman?

Larry Bodine in this morning’s Blog for Arizona alerts us to another side of Marquez-Peterson and a different history she does not admit: GOP Congress Candidate Lea “Chapter 7” Peterson Squirms on Trump Question. There’s actually a lot more to Marquez-Peterson than is suggested by Larry’s title. He reviews an MSNBC interview and then resurrects some facts reported in the 2005 story (by Chris Limberis, Tucson Weekly) on another side of Marquez-Peterson’s “successful business.” She and her husband racked up a laundry list of financial woes, Limberis reported in Running on Empty. Touted as a business leader and expert, Lea Marquez-Peterson finds herself bankrupt with millions in debt.

… [By the time their] lawyer filed the bankruptcy notice, the couple had built up more than $3.2 million in debt and reported $104,477 in assets.

Much of that debt came from the collapse of that “chain of gasoline stations & convenience stores” and its associated loans.

… But not all of the debt was for business or education.

Some of the debt was in the form of over $64,000 in credit card debt and over $100,000 in unpaid taxes.

When I see numbers like that, I think out of control.

Marquez-Peterson and her husband also owe $32,919 in Bank of America credit card debt, $13,036 in Wells Fargo credit card debt, $8,244 on a Citibank Platinum card, and $5,889 to Bank One. One of the smallest consumer debts listed is $217 to Bill Me Later of Omaha, Neb.

Four Marquez-Peterson companies–American Retail Corp., the Marquez-Peterson Group, Marquez-Peterson II and Valle Verde Partners–owe the Internal Revenue Service a total of $93,978, according to the bankruptcy file. The IRS had filed nine liens against Marquez-Peterson and her husband. The city, according to documents at the Pima County Recorder’s Office, filed liens for back sales taxes totaling more than $13,000..

She hasn’t given up some of her necessities, like the cell phone and BlackBerry ($150 a month, according to bankruptcy papers).

You can find out more about Marquez-Peterson’s bankruptcy in the Tucson Weekly report and Larry Bodine has a succinct breakdown of the 3.2 million.

Getting back to the MSNBC interview that triggered Marquez-Peterson’s “squirms” …

“Thank you for having me,” she opened to Kaisie Hunt on May 20. And some would judge the subsequent answers as being had. Following are reactions from Larry Bodine.

She played dumb when it came to Trump’s pardon of convicted ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio. “I really don’t have a position on President Trump’s pardoning of Sheriff Joe.”

[Hey, hey, Lea! Jailor Joe] Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court for refusing to obey court orders to stop his immigration roundups based on racially profiling Hispanic people.

… She defended Trump’s calling immigrants as “animals,” because she said he was referring to gang members from Mexico.

[On the other hand] She said she’d likely support a discharge effort in House of Representatives to force a vote on legislation to support Dreamers.

You can view the interview here and read Larry Bodine’s post here.

Unfortunately, none of this is going to matter. Commenter “Liza” responded to Larry’s post:

She’s the leader of the GOP pack in fundraising having raised $502,028 with $427,582 cash on hand as of 03/31/2018. I suspect she’ll be the GOP nominee, no one else has any money.

I wonder if her donors know about the $3.2 million Chapter 7 story. Or perhaps they don’t care. In the age of Trump it’s OK to go broke as long as it’s with other people’s money.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

No end in sight - Texas decides gun rights are worth a pile of dead kids

What's wrong with this picture
What's wrong with this picture?

This morning’s Daily Star carried this AP report on the Santa Fe school shooting: School shooting may not bring change to gun-loving Texas. Check that. The AP meant to say “School shootings will never bring change to gun-loving Texas.” The subtitle should have read “Thoughts and prayers from Texas governor are ineffective in stopping killing of Texas kids.”

Get it? That’s “What’s wrong with this picture.”

Here are snippets.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas has more than 1.2 million licensed handgun owners who can openly carry their weapons in public. The state hosted the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting two weeks ago. And until Monday, the governor’s re-election website was raffling off a shotgun.

Guns are so hard-wired into Texas culture that last week’s deadly rampage at Santa Fe High School is considered unlikely to result in any significant restrictions on access to weapons in the Lone Star State.

Abbott and Texas Republicans have embraced a steady relaxation of gun laws in recent years. Since 2013, Texas has reduced the cost and hours of training needed to be licensed to carry a handgun, allowed “open carry” for handgun license holders, and allowed concealed handguns in college classrooms and dorms.

In 2015, Abbott tweeted he was “embarrassed” that Texas lagged behind California in gun sales. In 2017, he bragged about his accuracy with a pistol at a shooting range. In a speech to the NRA convention in Dallas, Abbott said, “The problem is not guns. The problem is hearts without God. It is homes without discipline and communities without values.”

On Monday, Abbott’s re-election campaign scaled back its shotgun raffle in the wake of the Santa Fe shooting, replacing it with a raffle for a $250 gift certificate. A photograph of the governor aiming a shotgun was removed.

As a journalistic exercise, try rewriting the above snippets substituting “United States” for “Texas” and “President” for “Governor.”

Then think about what always precedes a school shooting …

It’s the thoughts and prayers that always follow the last shooting and thus are predictive of the next school shooting. lf we stop with the thoughts and prayers already and substitute some serious gun control we just might reduce the number of kids killed.

That won’t happen. Why not, you might ask. Texas is the clearest example today of the cancer that eats away at the moral heart of America. Retitled, “School shootings will never bring change to gun-loving America.” Our country has decided that so-called gun rights are worth a pile of dead kids.

And check that. American gun rights, we have decided, are worth piles of dead kids. And there is no end in sight.

Monday, May 21, 2018

This Mournday Mourning's selection of Illustrated News

Here is the link to AZBlueMeanie’s Mournday Mourning Illustrated News aka Cartoon of The Week.

In Election 2018 'The Democrats are coming.' But which ones and how Democratic?

“The Democrats are coming” and the Republicans know it. That’s the reporting by the AP in Democrats get giddy about a perennial target: Arizona featured in this morning’s Daily Star. There’s a lot of good news there. Here are some examples.

Democrats hope that a primary between three Republicans helps them get a shot at an open U.S. Senate seat that could determine which party controls the chamber. Tens of thousands of Arizona teachers are newly mobilized after recent walkouts that won them a 20 percent pay increase over three years and drew attention to the $1.5 billion in cuts the GOP-controlled state government has made to K–12 education since the Great Recession.

Republicans know they have their work cut out for them. “I think it’s going to be a force that we’re going to have to reckon with, for sure,” said former Gov. Jan Brewer. “A sleeping giant was awoke, they’re awake and alive and they’re out there and they want change,” she said of energized teachers.

Chuck Coughlin, a veteran GOP consultant in Phoenix, said the party’s greatest challenge will be in the Senate race. The Democrat running for the seat being relinquished by Sen. Jeff Flake, Rep. Kirsten Sinema, faces no major primary opposition and has been running ads for weeks introducing herself to voters as a common-sense centrist.

Whoa! Let’s explore that one by the numbers.

This last Saturday evening (May 20, 2018) at the Pima County Democratic Party Udall dinner, one of the featured speakers was US Senate candidate Krysten Sinema. Given that the dinner was a celebration of two awards and capped by a rousing speech by Tom Steyer, I had to wonder why Sinema, as opposed to any other candidate in any other race, was given time at the mic. I can’t remember what she had to say. But apparently the party faithful, including the DCCC, has anointed her. And all that reminded me of some reactions to Sinema’s announcement of her candidacy back in the Fall of 2017.

My own reaction to the announcement appeared on this blog on October 1st, 2017: Kyrsten Sinema wants to be a Senator. Here are reasons why she should not be.. Here’s a snippet.

… According to the FiveThirtyEight tracking, Sinema does vote exactly 50.0% of the time in accord with what Trump supports. See Tracking Congress In The Age Of Trump. It is “An updating tally of how often every member of the House and the Senate votes with or against the president.” However, the more telling observation is the “Trump Plus/Minus Score” which is the “Difference between a member’s actual and predicted Trump-support scores.” Based on Trump’s share of the vote in the 2016 election, Sinema is predicted to have voted with Trump 28.6% of the time. Instead she voted with Trump 50% of the time. The difference is 21.5%. I sorted the entire House of Representatives on that difference score and found that only two Democrats were more extreme on that measure than Sinema. That is, she is the third highest of all 194 Democratic members (top 1.5%) of the House in terms of her support for Trump. …

UPDATE: As of today, May 20, 2018, Sinema has edged up a tad. She now votes 56.9% with Trump. The predicted score is 32.7% for a difference of 24.2%. She moved from the third highest to now the second highest of all 194 House Democrats in support of Trumpist positions putting her in the top 1%.

AZBlueMeanie had more to say about Sinema’s evolution in his September 30, 2017 post, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema to run for U.S. Senate.

I have never been a big fan of Representative Kyrsten Sinema, even when she was in the state legislature. My discomfort with her is that she appears to me to be “all show and no substance.” [_Scriber_: Now I don’t feel bad for not recalling her speech last night.] She is not much of a policy wonk, and has a slim legislative record. Of course, she has always been in the minority, so that is a contributing factor.

After her election to the House of Representatives, Sinema joined the conservative Democrat Blue Dog Coalition, and more recently the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus with her fellow Arizona congresswoman Martha McSally.

I’m not sure how one evolves from being a Ralph Nader Green Party “lefty” liberal to a conservative Blue Dog Democrat. That seems rather chameleon to me, adopting whatever one’s circumstances dictate in order to survive politically. That speaks to more ambition than a principled politician. But then, this is Arizona where this can be said just about every politician.

On the same day, Joel Feinman offered some scathing observations about Sinema.

The Three Problems with Kyrsten Sinema or: How Democrats Learned to Stop Worrying and Welcome the Apocalypse was posted on October 1, 2017 by Joel Feinman in the Politics section of his PimaLiberator blog. It resurfaced yesterday in an alert from my readers citing the essay on Feinman’s Facebook page (h/t Carolyn Chausee via Miriam Lindmeier). Below are excerpts from his blog, but you really must read the whole thing in which he cites chapter and verse about Sinema’s votes. Democrats’ forgiveness of them speak ill of the future of our party.

… social media is already ringing with calls for Democrats to unify behind and vote for Ms. Sinema in the general election next November, because “she’s the only real candidate” and “she’s better than (Republican).”

The problem with these pleas is that Ms. Sinema embodies everything that is wrong with the Democratic Party. Her candidacy, even or perhaps especially if successful, will remind Americans once again just how little Democrats seem to care about electing real, inspiring leaders to public office who will change our state and our country for the better.

Everyday seems to bring news that is worse than the day before. Mass shootings, war, unemployment, government-sanctioned white supremacy, environmental degradation. No person of reason can argue with a straight face that the social, economic, political, or environmental trend lines are positive. If the Democratic Party keeps excusing and supporting candidates like Ms. Sinema, in the hope that their election will somehow lead to a progressive political revolution the next election, or the next next election, we will proceed head-first into the abyss. If we do not today revolutionize our party and our politics, then one day soon the next election will be our last.

OK. I hear you say: Sinema is way better than any of her likely Republican combatants in the general election. As they say in Minnesota, Yah, Sure, You Betcha with all due sincerity. So was I reminded by Mrs. Scriber - who also was at the Udall dinner Saturday night. Here’s the evidence from 538. McSally votes 97.3% with Trump (vs. Sinema’s 56.9%). McSally is the 11th most Trumpian House Republican putting her in the top 5% of all House Republicans in terms of support for Trump.

But here’s another way to look at it. In terms of the "Trump Plus/Minus Score” which is the “Difference between a member’s actual and predicted Trump-support scores”, there are only 15 members of the House separating Sinema from McSally. And that is only a 3% difference.

So, do with this what you will. But remember 167. That’s the number of Democrats who were angered by some of then Rep. Ron Barber’s votes who stayed home in 2014 and thereby were complicit in getting McSally the CD2 seat. Which she kept in 2016. And which may now be her path to the Senate. And then the Presidency.

If you don’t like Sinema for Senate (and there are good reasons why you should not), what are you going to do come November? Are you (oh, hell, we) willing to accept McSally or Kelli Ward or Joe Arpaio over Sinema?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Lock him up?

Here, from Salon.com (h/t Paul McCreary), is a listing of reasons why we should flip Trump’s campaign chant to “lock him up.” What more do you need to know about Trump? Trump did it and he’s going down for a host of crimes, and some of them have nothing to do with Russia.

I’ve been “covering” the Trump story for over a year now, and I’m sick and tired of stacking up the details of his treachery day after day, week after week. What more do you need to know? He’s a lying, thieving, incompetent, ignorant traitor who conspired with the Russian government to steal the election of 2016 and illegally defeat a candidate who won the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots. His presidency is illegitimate, and his occupation of the White House is a stain on our nation’s honor and a threat to our democracy. History will cast him into the same sewer in which float the putrid remains of Benedict Arnold, Jefferson Davis and Richard Nixon. Impeachment would be too kind an end for him. He belongs behind bars, broken, bankrupt and disgraced.

Every day the front pages of the newspapers and the headlines of the cable news shows are filled with evidence of Trump’s lies and thievery. Look at what happened this week alone.

Trump started out denying that he even knew Stormy Daniels, then he denied having a sexual relationship with her, then he said he didn’t know about any payoffs to her. Monday, he filed his required federal financial disclosure form in which he effectively admitted making the $130,000 payment to shut her up just before the election in 2016.

The author provides a long, long list of Trumpian transgressions. Read the original salon.com story for many more.

… every set of stairs has a bottom and in Trump’s case, it’s the law. His lies and dissembling about Stormy Daniels came up against the law this week when he had to file his financial disclosure form. Lying or omitting information on a federal form is a felony, which is why Trump was forced to include the repayment of his debt to Michael Cohen which covered the $130,000 that had been paid out to silence Stormy Daniels in October of 2016. He lied about her and he lied about that payment until he came up against the law and then he was forced to tell the truth.

He has reached the ground floor with Russia and everything else. You can lie at rallies, you can lie to the media, you can lie to voters, but lies don’t work when they come up against laws. That’s where Trump finds himself today. He’s a lying, thieving traitor who conspired with a hostile nation to steal the presidential election of 2016 and he got caught. Not even his bone spurs will get him a deferment this time. He’s going to be drafted for the farm team at Leavenworth. He’s going down.

Your Scriber worries about which of our democratic institutions this wanna be dictator will take down with him.

The author, Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter.