Monday, November 30, 2015

Domestic terrorism: Abortion clinic attacks are just one example

"Why Hate Speech by Presidential Candidates is Despicable"

The lead on this one is from Robert Reich at his blog. The Colorado Springs shooting is getting the attention in the media:

On Friday, a gunman killed three at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. Later, in explaining his motive to the police, he said "no more baby parts."

But there are many more incidents of domestic terrorism attributable to the Republican vitriol. Reich lists them. For example:

Last Monday, gunmen opened fire on Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis who were demanding action against two white Minneapolis police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark, 24, an unarmed black man, on Nov. 15.

Reich concludes:

I’m not suggesting Trump, Carson, Fiorina, or any other presidential candidate is directly to blame for hate crimes erupting across America.

But by virtue of their standing as presidential candidates, their words carry particular weight. They have a responsibility to calm people with the truth rather than stir them up with lies.

In suggesting that the staff of Planned Parenthood, Muslims, Black Lives Matter protesters, and Mexican immigrants are guilty of venal acts, these candidates are fanning the flames of hate.

This itself is despicable.

Here are two related posts at Blog for Arizona.

Why won't the American media call domestic terrorism terrorism?

The definition of "terrorism" is ter·ror·ism /ˈterəˌrizəm/ (noun) the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. The American media is loath to use the term "terrorism" when reporting the acts of anti-abortionists who kill doctors and patients and vandalize or blow up abortion clinics, but make no mistake, they are terrorists.

Incitement to terrorism, Fiorina style

... what specifically motivated the murderer, doesn’t the analysis start with: Did the murderer see Fiorina’s infamous mini-speech at the Republican debate, when she demanded that we "watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain"?

Can anyone doubt that if the Colorado Springs murderer saw Fiorina that night, or later saw the video, that’s what pushed him over the edge? If one were affirmatively trying to incite violence towards people affiliated with Planned Parenthood, could he or she have been any more effective than Fiorina?

The bottom line is we may have an accessory to murder running for President. Welcome to the "greatest country in the world."

"Can anyone doubt ...?" Yes, given the difficulty with causal inference, one can have doubts about any specific incident or statement. But the overall level and content of the Republican rhetoric - the hate speech - makes it plausible that the vileness exemplified by Fiorina sets the occasion for domestic terrorism.

American Fascism: "At long last?"

I mean that question in two senses. One is in the sense of the original author, Joseph Welch, calling out Joe McCarthy in the 1954 Army-McCarthy congressional hearings. Welch asked:

"You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last?"

Ian Reifowitz, in a Daily Kos post, asks the same question of GOP presidential candidates with respect to Donald Trump.

Yes, John Kasich has released a terrific new ad that features a surrogate, Colonel Thomas N. Moe (U.S. Air Force retired), paraphrasing the famous words of anti-Nazi Martin Niemoller ("First they came for …"). I give a ton of credit to Kasich, but where are the Republicans who are, you know, polling above 3 percent nationally? I’m looking at you Messrs. Carson, Rubio, Cruz, and Bush. Well, I’m not really looking at Ben Carson, who—even if he did offer something productive—probably would end up saying that "he doesn't stand behind his comments" by the next day anyway.

A few on the right, including the lowest polling presidential candidate in the field at 0.0 percent (Jim Gilmore), have begun to use the word "fascist" to characterize Trump. But that’s far from good enough. When will the Republican party as a whole reject this man, reject his lies, his cynicism, and his hate? That they have not yet done so stands as a mark of their immorality. The next Republican presidential debate takes place on December 15. Whatever they say between now and then, whatever ads they may release, the leading Republicans not named Trump will face a real test that night, appropriately in Las Vegas.

Do they have the moral courage to risk taking on Donald Trump live in front of a Republican audience? Will they do more than criticize an absurdly unconstitutional proposal (and remember, Rubio couldn’t even do that)? Will one of them finally stand up and condemn Trump as powerfully as Joseph Welch did Senator McCarthy?

At long last?

I don't think so. The reasons for my pessimism are explained in another Daily Kos post (by Mark Sumner) on the march toward Fascism in America since World War II. Sample snippets follow.

Sixty million people died in World War II, but fascism won. It didn’t win on the battlefield. It didn’t win right away. It won because the same fears, the same greed, the same hatred that fueled its growth in the first part of the twentieth century never went away. The symbols of fascism became anathema, but the causes … went deep. And gradually, slowly, one step at a time, all those vices became first tolerated, then treated as virtues, and then as the only acceptable view.

It was French poet Charles Baudelaire who said "the finest trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist." The finest trick of the modern fascist? The same. Nothing is ever fascist. It’s just "very conservative." And this week’s very conservative, is next weeks middle of the road.

Sinclair Lewis never actually said "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross, " but he should have. And he should have mentioned that no one would dare speak its name.

Check out the post for a collation of steps on that march to American Fascism.

Cartoons to start your week

A choice selection from AZBlueMeanie as usual. Trump's secret sources for 9/11 claims revealed: Sasquatch and Nessie.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Daily Trumpeter: Trump's lies

We know that Trump lies and lies and lies. And gets away with it with the Republican voters who appear not to care. This morning the Daily Star carried an editorial by the Kansas City Star with examples of the lies and a negative judgement.

All politicians keep fact-checkers busy. They make promises that they can’t keep. They use cherry-picked data to make a case. They duck and dodge, sidestep and fudge.

But rarely, if ever, has a high-profile candidate treated truth and accuracy as contemptuously as Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

If you need documentation of that, check out the Star's editorial.

Trump lies blithely and refuses to back down. Indeed, he often expands his falsehoods. His lies denigrate and cast suspicion on whole groups of people. They are intended to whip up fear and anger among citizens who are either uninformed or predisposed to believe hateful rumors even when faced with evidence to the contrary.

And that is the scary thing. Trump is preaching to a choir of Trumpettes.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of those people around, and they vote in Republican primaries. Trump leads nationwide polls of GOP voters. Other candidates, namely Carson and Ted Cruz, are taking note and following his lead in singling out Muslims for criticism.

People who care about truth and accuracy must keep calling Trump out. He is not a victim of the liberal media, or a refreshing antidote to excess political correctness.

He is an intentional purveyor of falsehoods intended to divide America, and that makes him a dangerous force.

How does a conservative candidate know it's over?

When conservative columnists say so. (But that assumes that the campaign staff bothers to read the newspapers.)

This morning's _Daily Star_ carries a damning column about Ben Carson by conservative writer Jonah Goldberg. So who is he, you ask? The Star answers:

Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review.

And here is part of what he had to say.

... Carson’s problems extend beyond foreign policy. He places an inordinate amount of emphasis on platitudes and cliches, particularly about common sense. But common sense isn’t a leather-bound book one takes down from the shelf to find the right solutions to every problem.

Of course, politics isn’t brain surgery. But it does require a certain foundation that only experience and homework can provide. If you’re waiting until you run for president to get up to speed, it is too late. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker learned that the hard way this year. He simply wasn’t prepared to discuss policies outside his comfort zone.

The rarest commodity in politics is a genuinely charismatic personality that arouses passion in voters at a propitious political moment. Money can’t buy that; just ask Mitt Romney. Doing your homework, meanwhile, is easy. I don’t mean it doesn’t require effort; it most certainly does. But there’s no trick to it: Read books, talk to experts, think things through when you have the time and resources to do so.

If Carson had consulted common sense, he would have known that.

But, according to Goldberg's first paragraph above, Carson still would not have known that. Consulting common sense about common sense is a fatally flawed circularity. May Carson's campaign be so afflicted.

Politics ain't bean bag. It ain't brain surgery either.

If you are a Republican and cannot stomach Trump or Carson, who is your second choice?

The answer is Cruz, not Rubio.

Here are some interesting polling results reported by Ezra Klein at (h/t Daily Kos)

"If Trump and Carson falter, Cruz benefits"

Cruz beats Rubio 27% to 15% when asked about a second choice. The rest of the pack is far behind.

This question tests something interesting: Do GOP voters like Trump and Carson because they're uniquely compelling candidates? If so, they may well see Rubio as the next most compelling candidate, even though he is pretty stylistically and substantively different. But another possibility is that Republicans like Trump and Carson because they're combative, outsider conservatives with hard-line positions on key issues, in which case Rubio — a genial establishment favorite who has a real record of working with Democrats — probably isn't a fit.

The results here suggest the latter. Of the candidates in the race, Cruz is closest to Trump and Carson in ideology and approach, and it looks like he is the main beneficiary if they drop out of the race.

"If the field narrowed to just Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, Trump would crush Rubio 57-43."

... in a head-to-head matchup among Republican voters, Trump beats Rubio 57-43. That suggests that Trump's ceiling, at least among Republicans, is far above his current 25 to 30 percent, and he may well benefit as weaker candidates drop out.

"Ben Carson and Ted Cruz lead the second-choice sweepstakes"

One possible argument for Rubio is that though he may not be many voters' first choice, he could prove to be a lot of people's second choice, and so his strength will reveal itself as other candidates prove unacceptable or drop out.

At the moment, though, there's relatively little evidence of that: Rubio and Trump are within a percentage point of each other [8% vs. 7%] when it comes to voters' second choice, and Ted Cruz and Ben Carson are ahead of both of them [11% vs. 12%].

None of this means Rubio is cooked. It's only to say that for all that the conventional wisdom and the betting markets favor Rubio, it is really hard to find support for his strength in the numbers.

The bad news, if Trump and Carson drop, is that the rest of the pack are cut from the same mold.

Bernie Sanders on the price of prescription drugs

Here's a 5-minute clip of Sanders grilling a candidate for (head of?) the FDA. This one is a must watch.

It's why I Yearn for Bern in 5 minutes.

h/t Jean Vickers via Facebook

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Afraid of Islamic terrorists? Try white Christian men with long guns.

Talk is cheap - to produce. But talk can costly - in its consequences. The politicians who pander to the religious right have created an atmosphere in which assassinations can and do happen and acts of terrorism are guaranteed. For example, consider the murder of a medical doctor while attending church services - in a Chrisian church. You can chew on the logic of that one.

Now, in the news, is the invasion of a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado Springs by, apparently, a white man armed with a long gun and carrying (possibly) explosive materials. One police officer and two civilians killed. Many others wounded. The Guardian and the New York Times have the story along with a photo of the "suspect."

After reading either report, check out the post at Blog for Arizona on the sick antics of the staff of AZ Rep. Paul Gosar. Happy Birthday, Paul, from your long-gun supporters.

The Colorado Springs incident is but one of many assaults on abortion clinics. Sara Kliff at has the history and stats.

Can the Latino vote be bought?

Apparently the Koch brothers think so. Here are essential snippets from the story in Greg Sargent's Plum Line (Washington Post).

The Koch brothers are sinking big money into an expanding effort to win over Latino voters in the 2016 cycle with a simple message: Don’t go with the party that will make you reliant on government. Vote Republican instead.

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But it’s intended to make a broader point that I hope to illustrate below.

Ashley Parker of the New York Times reports that the conservative billionaire Kochs are helping to bankroll a multi-million-dollar effort to reach out to Latino voters, called the Libre Initiative, that is meant to fill a vacuum left by the Republican Party, which the group thinks has failed miserably in this outreach mission. The Times sums up the group’s message this way: "economic freedom and smaller-government principles will yield opportunity and prosperity."

The Koch's project abandons "trickle down" economics by doubling down and going for an economic rain storm. But ...

... support for immigration reform might not be enough to win over Latinos, who could be alienated by the group’s — and the GOP’s — position on the Affordable Care Act and other issues ...

The trouble with all this is that Latinos tend to support the overall Democratic governing vision — and not the Republican one — when it comes to economic issues and health care, too.

Sargent reports the data on that. Polling data show that most Hispanics line up with Dems on economic policy and most Hispanics favor President Obama and the Democratic party.

If the Koch-funded group’s core message is that Democratic economic and health care policies produce an over-reliance on government — whereas scaling back government and unleashing the power of free enterprise are the only true solutions to maximizing opportunity and self-realization for Latinos — it would not be surprising if many of them end up rejecting its fundamental animating principles this time around, too.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving retrospective: what are you most grateful for?

Things most and least grateful for from Robert Reich (via Progressive Democrats of America).

On this Thanksgiving, here are the 10 things I’m most grateful for:

  1. Wonderful family and friends.
  2. My dad, who's still going strong (if he makes it, he’ll be 102 in February)
  3. My health and health of my loved ones.
  4. The kind and generous people I meet in my travels around America.
  5. My fabulous students (in my 35 years of university teaching I haven’t encountered a generation of 18 to 25-year-olds as idealistic and as dedicated to the public good as this one).
  6. Bernie Sanders.
  7. The indefatigable, tenacious, and tireless advocates and organizers for equal opportunity, against voter suppression, for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, for Black Lives Matter, and for a more just society.
  8. Teachers, who despite low pay and often impossible odds, continue to do one of the most important jobs in America.
  9. Barack Obama.
  10. Optimists.

And here are the 10 I’m least grateful for:

  1. Pfizer, which is deserting America because it doesn’t want to pay its tax bill here.
  2. Walmart, which is spying on its employees.
  3. Donald Trump, who’s leading America’s hate brigade.
  4. Other Republican presidential candidates, who are also spewing venom and lies.
  5. Wall Street lobbyists who are at this moment trying to water down regulations against excessive speculation.
  6. Martin Shreki, CEO of drug company Turing, who raised price of drug used by AIDS patients from $13.50 a pill to $750 when he took over the company, and still refuses to lower the price.
  7. Charles and David Koch, whose political organization is spending as much on the 2016 election as is each of the two major political parties.
  8. Fox News, which continues to fill the heads of Americans with lies, distortions, hate, bigotry, and right-wing propaganda.
  9. Republican governors and state legislators who are busy trying to suppress the votes of minorities through voter ID laws and gerrymandering
  10. Cynics -- because cynicism is a self-fulfilling prophesy making it almost impossible to do anything about 1-9 above.

Make your own list.

What to be grateful for: volunteers

After the passing of Sparky, our dog of 15 years, this one struck home.

Carolyn Classen (Blog for Arizona) thanks volunteers who walked dogs at the Pima Animal Care Center.

And today I am thankful for the volunteers who showed up (like me) to walk dogs at Pima Animal Care Center, 4000 N. Silverbell Rd. It was the 3rd annual event, so if you missed it, check it out next year (at the Pima Animal Care Center website). I walked a very lively dog named "Willow", a lovely spotted brown/white dog who needs a good home.

Free adoptions [today] (Black Friday), noon to 3 p.m.

I'll put both on my calendar.

And what NOT to be grateful for: The "Trump effect"

Predicting the future is not advisable if you have a need to be correct. Most predictions fail. Who foresaw the internet? Global warming? The rise of ISIS? The end of days? In the language of statistical inference, all these and more are either "misses" or "false alarms." But there is one "hit" I would like to mention - the rise of American Fascism. I could credit writers of science fiction or Sinclair Lewis (It Can't Happen Here).

Along the latter lines, I will venture a prediction: future historians will look back on the campaigns of the 2016 election and identify Donald Trump as the force that opened, once again, America to political practices and policies that run exactly opposite to America's announced values. And we are not even into 2016 yet. There is more to come, as detailed by Michael Gerson's (Washington Post) column in today's Daily Star.

The presidential candidate who has consistently led the Republican field for four months, Donald Trump, has proposed: forcibly expel 11 million people from the country, requiring a massive apparatus of enforcement, courts and concentration camps; rewrite or reinterpret the 14th Amendment to end the Civil War-era Republican principle of birthright citizenship; build a 2,000-mile wall on our southern border while forcing Mexico to pay the cost.

He has characterized undocumented Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers and has opposed the speaking of Spanish in America.

Trump just showed the way. He's followed by more and more rabid rhetoric from his Republican primary opponents.

Republican candidates have proposed: to favor the admission of Christian over Muslim refugees from the Middle East; to "send home" Syrian refugees, mainly women and children, into a war zone; to "strongly consider" the shutting down of suspicious mosques; to compile a database of Muslims and (perhaps) force them to carry special identification showing their religion. They have compared Syrian refugees to "rabid dogs," ruled out the possibility of a Muslim president, and warned that Muslim immigration to America is really "colonization."

There are, of course, Republican presidential hopefuls who have vigorously opposed each of these proposals, arguments and stereotypes. But Donald Trump has, so far, set the terms of the primary debate and dragged other candidates in the direction of ethnic and religious exclusion. One effect has been the legitimization of even more extreme views — signaling that it is OK to give voice to sentiments and attitudes that, in previous times, people would have been too embarrassed to share in public. So in Tennessee, the chairman of the state Legislature’s GOP caucus has called for the mobilization of the National Guard to round up Syrian refugees and put them in camps. Many Republicans are now on record saying that Islam is inherently violent and inconsistent with constitutional values (while often displaying an ironic and disturbing ignorance of those values).

It gets worse.

"We’re going to have to do things," says Trump with menacing vagueness, "that we never did before." And if disrespect for institutions is common, Trump is its perfect vehicle — combining the snark of Twitter with the staged anger and grudges of reality television.

But in all this, it is easy to miss Trump’s policy ambition. He would spark trade wars with China and Mexico and scrap the world trading system — which Republicans have helped construct since World War II — replacing it with an older kind of mercantilism. He would make the seizure of Middle Eastern oil the centerpiece of his regional strategy — turning a spurious liberal charge into a foreign policy doctrine, and uniting the Arab world in rage and resentment.

And Trump would make — has already half-made — the GOP into an anti-immigrant party. ...

Gerson closes with a judgment and a question for conservatives and the religious right..

It does not take much political talent to turn this sense of cultural displacement into anti-immigrant resentment. Only a reckless disregard for the moral and political consequences.

As denial [of a Trump presidency] in the GOP fades, a question is laid upon the table: Is it possible, and morally permissible, for economic and foreign policy conservatives, and for Republicans motivated by their faith, to share a coalition with the advocates of an increasingly raw and repugnant nativism?

I would put it differently. Who among those conservatives and theocrats would embrace a Fascist America?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

McSally enters GOP alternative universe with her "mostly false" facts about terrorism

The Arizona Democratic Party issued a press release on CD2 Rep. Martha McSally's "mostly false" claims about terrorism. Here it is in full.

Martha McSally continues to fall short on substance as a PolitiFact check finds her statements about the fight on terrorism "Mostly False."

McSally appears to be taking a page from Donald Trump's book, thinking the bigger the whopper, the more likely it is to be believed. In a press conference last week with House Speaker Paul Ryan, McSally claimed, "We have 10,000 IRS agents making sure that you don't take an improper charity deduction and less than two dozen people focusing on countering violent extremism at home."

PolitiFact took a look and determined that McSally was making stuff up, just like presidential hopeful Donald Trump has been doing lately. The country's 10,000 IRS agents obviously do much more than check charitable deductions, the respected news organization pointed out, and the U.S. effort to combat terrorism at home involves thousands of federal, state and local law enforcement officials.

"Donald Trump's success is leading other GOP candidates to believe they can lie with impunity," said Arizona Democratic Party spokeswoman Barbara Lubin. "It appears we're entering into a 'fact-free' election season here in Arizona with Martha McSally leading the charge."

Here's the PolitiFact full report.

As you might imagine, AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona adds a lengthy list of McSally's other misrepresentations in "Rep. Martha McSally demonstrates that she is just another partisan hack".

Cruz the Canny

Or shall we call him Cruzan the Barbarian? Like Conan, he lurks in the background waiting to strike as the powerful ones beat each other into the ground.

Here are two takes on Cruzan - one from Charles Pierce and the second from Rachel Maddow.

Pierce (in Esquire) has interesting observations about the GOP candidates in the strange place called Iowa.

... Somehow, lost in the blare of the Trump, and amid the blinding brilliance of Dr. Ben (The Blade) Carson on just about every subject known to man, Cruz has run a smart, stealthy campaign, shrewdly calculating that, sooner or later, the two mock frontrunners will come back to the pack and positioning himself as the obvious choice for any of their voters who choose to go over the side. Cruz has money and organization and, unlike many of his rivals, he seems to be capable of a kind of strategic patience.

The momentum already has been strong enough for Cruz to garner an endorsement from Congressman Steve King (R-Produce Department). Rumors abounded all over Des Moines last weekend that Bob Vander Plaats, the influential evangelical ward-heeler who hosted last Friday's shindig, may be about to jump aboard the Tailgunner's glory train as well. This would be a seismic development in the race. ...

Bear in mind, I'm not advocating for any of this. I find the Tailgunner approximately as unlikable as three-quarters of the political world does. But there's no denying that he has built himself some political advantages that none of his rivals have. [_BEGIN SARCASM ALERT._] However, I'm sure that the "moderate GOP establishment" will get behind moderate John Kasich, or moderate Chris Christie, any day now and capsize the entire race. [_END SARCASM ALERT._]

Maddow at MSNBC reports:

... on the background of Troy Newman, radical anti-abortion activist embraced by Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, and notes that this is the second recent radical association by Cruz, having just spoken at an event where fellow speaker Kevin Swanson advocated the belief that the Bible justifies the execution of gay people.

See Rachel's video clip, "Ted Cruz embraces religious radicals with violent message" (Duration: 8:11).

Bush knows how to tell if a refugee is a Christian

Or at least he claims he does. And that let's him filter out those refugees who are not Christian.

Bush is pathetic. The guy is struggling to get some traction against Trump and Carson and Cruz - GOP candidates who are burning up all the political oxygen. And this is the best he can do. Here are snippets from Steve Benen's report in the MSNBC MaddowBlog.

It’s tempting to give Jeb Bush credit for being far less ridiculous than Donald Trump on, well, pretty much everything. Over the last week, as Trump’s radicalism has exceeded any normal boundaries of propriety, the former governor has been willing to call out the New York developer for going too far.

But if Bush is going to claim any credit for taking the high ground, he’s going to have to stop dipping his feet in the same waters in which Trump is taking a swim.

Last week, for example, the Florida Republican argued that the United States should reject Syrian refugees for reasons he has not yet explained. Bush later clarified that some refugees might be able to enter the country, but only if they’re members of a religious group he approves of.

"You’re a Christian – I mean, you can prove you’re a Christian," Jeb inexplicably argued.

BuzzFeed reports today that Bush has done it again.

Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said in a radio interview Tuesday that "you can tell when someone is a Christian in the Middle East" based on indicators such as their name and birth certificate.

"I can promise you that," Bush told New Hampshire radio host Jack Heath. "By name, by where they’re born, their birth certificates. There are ample means by which to know this."

... there are two fairly obvious problems with his approach. First, his "you can tell" assurances notwithstanding, separating people who claim to be Christians from those who really are Christians isn’t nearly as simple as Bush chooses to believe. Names and birthplaces offer hints, but what about sincere converts?

Second, why in the world should it be the policy of the United States to discriminate against refugees, fleeing terrorist violence, based on the popularity of their faith?

Indeed. Continuing along the same lines, we might ask of Bush why it was the policy of a European government to attach badges to members of another non-Christian religion. And ask how his discriminatory claims differ.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ducey's Choice

You might think of the education "deal" championed by Gov. Dicey Ducey as a series of choices. During the special session, allies of K-12 - Democratic legislators and education groups - were offered Hobson's choice ("take it or leave it") by Ducey and his GOP cronies in the legislature. The deal must be approved by the Arizona voters in a special election on May 17th.

There is a more insidious choice offered to the voters during the special election. The electorate is being asked to choose among two ugly alternatives - a decision analogous to that in the book and movie Sophie's Choice. Sophie was a Polish immigrant (and concentration camp survivor) after World War II. As the story unfolds we learn that "upon arrival at Auschwitz, she was forced to choose which one of her two children would be gassed and which would proceed to the labor camp. To avoid having both children killed, she chose her son, Jan, to be sent to the children's camp, and her daughter, Eva, to be sent to her death."

On May 17th, Arizona voters will be asked to choose among two highly unpalatable alternatives - to approve a constitutional change in the amount of funds drawn from the state land trust or to reject the proposal (Prop. 123). If the proposal passes, there will be less money for K-12 from that source at the end of 10 years than would be the case if the present rate of disbursement remained in place. If the proposal does not pass, K-12 gets no additional money, at least for the immediate future.

In short, the choice offered the voters is to short education now or to short education in the future. Do we starve our kids today or do we starve them tomorrow?

You see? It's Sophie's Choice.

And it's Ducey's Choice.

P. S.

From an unrelated Associated Press story:

Ducey took office in January when it appeared the state could have a budget deficit approaching $1 billion, including money that courts had ordered the Legislature to pay to schools for failing to provide required yearly inflation boosts. But the school lawsuit was settled last month [Prop 123], without using much general fund cash, and tax revenue is running well above forecasts.

We did not have to suffer Ducey's Choice. Now we await what else he plans for that increased revenue.

Quote of the day: A comment on Scotland's welcome to Syrian refugees

A lot of people in Scotland could be described as fierce nationalists. 45% of them voted for separatism (from England) when the question was put to a vote several months ago. So it's a bit of a surprise that their nationalist leaning newspaper The Nationalist had this front-page headline: "To the first refugees fleeing War-Torn Syria who will arrive in Glasgow Airport today, we’d just like to say: Welcome to Scotland."

The Daily Kos reports on this Scottish welcome - and asks what's wrong with other countries?

These [Scottish] people are Nationalists.

These people are capital-N Nationalists, and they recognize that welcoming Syrian refugees is their duty to themselves and to the human species.

Here's the quote of the day.

So to all of the those, all around the world, who are terrified of Syrian refugees, I’d just like to ask: what the hell is wrong with you?

Trump still ahead in Iowa poll; Cruz up, Carson down

Trump is still on top, but the surprise is that Cruz overtook Carson. Here are snippets from Steve Benen's report (MSNBC/MaddowBlog).

Rich Lowry reported yesterday in National Review on the state of the Republican presidential race in Iowa, concluding, "It’s hard to exaggerate how much things have broken [Ted] Cruz’s way."

Just 24 hours later, there’s some pretty compelling evidence that this assessment is correct. Here’s the new Quinnipiac poll out of the Hawkeye State:

  1. Donald Trump: 25% (up from 20% in October)
  2. Ted Cruz: 23% (up from 10%)
  3. Ben Carson: 18% (down from 28%)
  4. Marco Rubio: 13% (unchanged)

No other candidate is above 5%, though it’s worth noting that Jeb Bush, who actually had the lead in Iowa in the early summer, is down to just 4% support – one percentage point lower than Rand Paul.

The latter observation illustrates a non-obvious aspect of the poll. The net change for all four top candidates is 8 percentage points. Those points had to have come from the tail-enders (like Bush and Paul). In Iowa GOP politics, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.

If this continues, and Cruz supplants Carson in the top tier, the nature of the race will fundamentally change.

There’s quite a bit of time left on the clock, but it’s now quite easy to imagine Cruz winning Iowa and Trump winning New Hampshire. It creates an interesting question for Republican insiders to kick around: the GOP establishment hates Cruz, but should we assume that it hates Trump more?

American Fascists: Why Donald Trump gets away with BS

The Huffington Post has a good article listing all (I think) of Donald Trump's false claims. Now he has taken a page from Ben Carson's play book and, when his "facts" are challenged, he asserts his sources are known only to him. For example:

It's not terribly problematic for a candidate in a GOP presidential primary to insist that the press corps is not telling voters the true story, whether it be about guns, border crossings, 9/11 or Muslim surveillance. Republican primary voters reflexively distrust the news media, which helps explain why Trump never backtracks when called to explain the source of his information.

(Do those voters trust Faux?)

But no matter. His base is convinced he will be a "strong leader." Once that belief takes hold, all the fact checking is seen as liberal media attacks and is therefore discounted. Greg Sargent explains in the Plum Line (Washington Post).

Members of the media are wringing their hands so hard over this perplexing question that their skin is practically peeling: How is it possible for Donald Trump to tell so many blatant lies, shrug off our fact-checks, and continue rising in the polls?

Easy: Because in the minds of his supporters, Trump has converted even the simple act of dismissing pointy-headed media fact-checks into a sign of his "strength." Trump’s big insight is not simply that the details don’t matter. It’s that getting mired in the details is itself a sign of weakness.

... Trump’s supporters have been persuaded that he will be a "strong leader." Once that decision has been made, any liberal media fact-checking of Trump’s statements, particularly criticisms that seem "politically correct," only confirm that original impression. Trump’s willingness to "say what needs to be said," in spite of media attacks on him, only further illustrates that he’ll do whatever it takes to accomplish whatever it is his supporters think he’s promising to accomplish when he vows to "make America great again."

Placing trust in a "strong leader" has not worked out so well, history tells us. The German populace fell for that line in the 30s. But Trump's base probably discounts history.

It is happening here and now.

Update on STUMPgate

AZ Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump's text messages may finally be aired in public. Those messages were to an APS lobbyist and two Republican candidates for the Commission. Here's an update from the Daily Star.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

American Facism update: "Border Strike Force"

Yesterday's Daily Star ran an Associated Press story on its front page about Gov. Doug "Il Duce" Ducey's big plan for a "Border Strike Force".

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said Monday he wants the Legislature to approve "tens of millions of dollars" in new funding for a border security force made up of state police, a move intended to address border smuggling even as immigration and terrorism worries emerge as potent 2016 political issues.

The Republican governor said his new plan to target smuggling along the Arizona border will focus on adding staffing, technology, air assets and highway patrol coverage. He also wants to boost spending on prosecutors, help county jails pay for holding added prisoners and temporarily use Arizona National Guard troops.

The troops, equipment and added staffing will be used by a newly formed Arizona Department of Public Safety unit called the Border Strike Force. ...

But not everyone is on board with Il Duce's move. Take the American Civil Liberties Union for example.

Ducey's plan drew criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, which called it a "misguided effort that is likely to create more problems than it solves."

"Arizonans have seen time and again that involving state police in U.S. border policies damages the well-being of our communities and the image of our state," ACLU executive director Alessandra Soler said. "Texas has wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on an initiative similar to Gov. Ducey's proposed 'strike force' that bipartisan critics agree has had little impact, other than to make communities less safe. We should not repeat these failed policies in Arizona."

Some contextual reasons for skepticism

Earlier this year, one of the first things Il Duce pushed was a bill that would have established a police force reporting only to him. I covered that one in a series of posts: 1, 2, 3, and 4.

... This [striker] amendment establishes an office of inspector general reporting only to Il Duce. ...

... basically what we have here is an individual, appointed by and answerable only to Il Duce, with unlimited powers, both investigative and prosecutorial, to do anything Il Duce wants. And the Senate is poised to create that position.

A standard hue and cry from the GOPlins is about waste and fraud. Here that is the cover for an uber-witch-hunter. The parallel to 1930s Nazi Germany is striking and scary.

It will be worth our watch to see if Il Duce resurrects that one in the next session. One thing about GOPlins: once on the hunt they do not give up until they have their prey.

So: pardon my skepticism about the "Border Strike Force." It does appear that Il Duce likes to create police forces.

American Fascism: Trump goes "full Nazi"

Yesterday's theme was American Fascism and my top candidates for American Fascists. Here are snippets from a related piece at Daily Kos. (h/t Phil Silvers)

... "security is going to rule." And I'll bet the trains will run on time. And speaking of trains, this is the same man who wants to round up 11,000,000 Latinos for mass deportation. How he proposes to do that is a mystery, but it wouldn't be surprising if it involved boxcars and concentration camps. He approvingly cited the 1950's "Operation Wetback" as a model for his plan. That operation resulted in dozens of deaths and was abandoned as a failure that violated humane standards.

In the short history of Trump's campaign he has gotten away with saying repulsive things and demonstrating overtly bigoted behavior. Even when he disparaged solidly conservative principles like the military sacrifices of John McCain, or making a mockery of the practice of Christianity, his supporters remained faithful. And despite all of that, he still clings to the top of the polls in the Republican presidential primary. There has been an astonishing and troubling loyalty by Republicans who seem unfazed no matter how disgusting or ignorant he gets. And it isn't just his supporters. Other GOP voters, pundits, and candidates, are reluctant to take him on.

If that continues it will be impossible for the GOP to separate themselves from his repugnant views. And the same goes for Fox News, who flagrantly promote Trump's campaign. They are already tied to him on most other issues with which they agree completely. But if they don't want to forever be associated with the outright appeal to the policies of the Nazis, they need to renounce him and cease supporting him. If his polling isn't hurt by this we'll know for sure that a significant chunk of the Republican Party is cool with fascism.

Unless Trump's base is completely fickle with attitudes flying about like feathers in the wind, I'll have to say that I have an even stronger hunch that "a significant chunk of the Republican Party is cool with fascism." He still is top dog in the polls and that means he has a shot at the Presidency.

Here is Bob Lord's (Blog for Arizona) conclusion about prospects for a fascistic right-winger in the oval office, if not 2016, then 2020. (Do read the whole of Lord's post.)

I can’t hazard a guess as to whether we’re in for a Cruz or Trump or Rubio presidency in 2016. My best guess is it depends on how the economy is performing next summer.

The scarier prospect is who we might vomit up in 2020 if Hillary wins next year. I doubt it will be Cruz. By that time, he’ll be considered too moderate.

American empire in decline?

Paul Buchheit, writing in Common Dreams, titled his essay "Signs of a Dying Society." I don't know about the "dying" but I do know that his points are well taken.

While Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou are vilified for revealing vital information about spying and bombing and torture, a man who conspired with Goldman Sachs to make billions of dollars on the planned failure of subprime mortgages was honored by New York University for his "Outstanding Contributions to Society."

Scriber clarifies with two snippets from the cited report on the hedge fund manager.

On April 28, Martin Lipton, Chairman of NYU, and its President, John Sexton, announced that hedge fund billionaire John Paulson would receive the "Albert Gallatin Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Society" at NYU’s 183rd Commencement ceremony, slated for next Wednesday. Albert Gallatin was one of the founders of NYU and a former Treasury Secretary under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Gallatin is buried in Trinity churchyard at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway – and he’s likely rolling over in his grave at the idea of having his name appended to John Paulson.

John Paulson is the founder and head of Paulson & Co., infamously known on Wall Street as the firm that conspired with Goldman Sachs to create Abacus 2007-AC1 – an investment Paulson & Co. assisted in designing to collapse in value. On April 16, 2010, the SEC brought charges against Goldman Sachs and one of its young vice presidents, Fabrice Tourre, for "defrauding investors" in the sale and marketing of Abacus. Paulson & Co. slipped through the net because it didn’t sell or market the product – it simply shorted it based on its inside information that it was designed to fail.

Buchheit continues:

This is one example of the distorted thinking leading to the demise of a once-vibrant American society. There are other signs of decay:

Here's the list of subtitles - check out the details in Buchheit's essay.

  1. A House Bill Would View Corporate Crimes as 'Honest Mistakes'
  2. Unpaid Taxes of 500 Companies Could Pay for a Job for Every Unemployed American
  3. Almost 2/3 of American Families Couldn't Afford a Single Pill of a Life-Saving Drug
  4. Violent Crime Down, Prison Population Doubles
  5. One in Four Americans Suffer Mental Illness, Mental Health Facilities Cut by 90%

There exists a common theme amidst these signs of societal decay: The super-rich keep taking from the middle class as the middle class becomes a massive lower class. Yet the myth persists that we should all look up with admiration at the "self-made" takers who are ripping our society apart.

American Fascism: “Let’s stop worrying about people’s rights.”

Leonard Pitts Jr., in the Daily Star editorial, observes "Sadly, there are dozens of junctures in American history from which that shameful quote might spring." And Pitts lists several examples dating back to the very founding of the United States. Here are some examples.

It could date as far back as 1798, when President Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts, making it illegal to criticize the U.S. government.

It could have been said in the 1940s, when Americans put Americans in concentration camps, or in the 1950s, when Joe McCarthy saw red everywhere he looked, or in the 1960s, when J. Edgar Hoover sat listening to Martin Luther King’s phone calls, or, also in the ’60s, when the Supreme Court gave police the power to stop and frisk (and harass and intimidate) without warrants or probable cause.

But the quote is contemporaneous. It was said by a former New York police officer in a Fox News program.

A Dr. Gina Loudon, identified as a "psychology expert," claimed "80 percent" of the mosques in America advocate violence. Coincidentally, about the same percentage of facts spewed by Fox "experts" turn out to be pure equine excreta.

Hannity, meantime, worried that a Syrian refugee might go into a crowded theater and start shooting people at random. Right. Like we need Syrian refugees for that.

But it was left to Bo Dietl, a former New York City cop, to cross the line from the simply stupid to the downright chilling, as he called for mass surveillance of mosques. Unconstitutional, you say? "Let’s stop worrying about people’s rights," he said.

Pitts wraps it up this way.

We supposedly hold sacred the values inscribed in this nation’s founding documents. Yet every time the world says "Boo!" some of us are pathetically eager to toss those values aside as if they were suddenly a burden too heavy to bear. But if the things that make America America are so easily sloughed off — if they are that unimportant — then what, exactly, is it we’re fighting to defend?

Why does "America" even matter?

Sept. 11 damaged and destroyed iconic buildings and took thousands of lives. But it also shredded the Constitution and made America unrecognizable to itself. The government tortured. It disappeared people. It snooped through innocent lives.

It created a secret "no-fly list" of supposed terrorists that included many people with zero connection to terrorism, at least one of them a U. S. senator; you could never find out how you got on the list and there was no effective procedure for getting off. It also gave the president unilateral power to execute American citizens suspected of terrorism without trial or even judicial oversight.

And after all that, here comes Bo Dietl. "Let’s stop worrying about people’s rights," he says.

Here’s a better idea. Let’s start.

Following posts are about two of those candidates for public office who have already stopped "worrying about people’s rights."

American Fascists #1: Donald Trump

Trump wants to create a special force to deport 11 million people. Here's the BlueMeanie's chronicle on Trump and American Fascism.

Donald Trump has been appealing to nativist xenophoia and racism since he entered the GOP primary for president. "The Donald" has proposed a special "deportation force" outside of regular immigration and law enforcement agencies and not subject to any due process of law in the judicial system to deport over 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Will these "Trump Troopers" be uniformed in crisply starched brown shirts with a Trump insignia?

Do a Google search for "Trump and fascism" and there have already a disturbing number of articles written about this topic.

Here is just one example from BlueMeanie's long list of Google hits (in the New Republic): Yes, Donald Trump is a fascist. Trump is there quoted: we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago" to monitor Muslims in America.

BlueMeanie concludes.

... Donald Trump is "not funny anymore" because he continues to expand his lead among Tea-Publican base voters in early primary states. A new CBS News polls find Donald Trump leading in Iowa and New Hampshire by sizable margins: In Iowa, he has 30 percent of likely GOP primary voters, to 21 percent for Ted Cruz, 19 for Ben Carson and 11 for Marco Rubio. In New Hampshire, Trump has 32 percent, Rubio has 13 percent, and Cruz and Carson each have 10 percent. Trump also holds a large lead in South Carolina.

Donald Trump is a dangerous demagogue who is not even particularly religious, but he is playing the GOP’s Christian Right base who vote in GOP primaries like a fiddle with appeals to their ignorance, intolerance, irrational fear and hatred of "others." He is appealing to Christofascism.

This is what Sinclair Lewis warned Americans about in his satirical It Can’t Happen Here. It can, and it is happening today.

American Fascists #2: Ben Carson

Here is the Associated Press story on Carson trying to trump Trump (another version was carried in this morning's Daily Star).

Campaigning about an hour west of Las Vegas, Carson said that not only mosques, but schools, supermarkets, car repair shops and "any place where radicalization is going on" should be monitored in light of terrorist threats.
"I would say we use our intelligence and we monitor anything: our mosques, a church, a museum, a supermarket," he said, later adding that monitoring would come after multiple reports or indications of radical activity. "We live in a very different time right now."

As for surveillance, Carson wouldn't elaborate on what increased monitoring would entail. He said he wasn't concerned about violating a person's right to privacy.

"The thing that will destroy our country is if we're overly concerned with violating someone's sensibilities while we allow blatant activity to occur that would violate all of our sensibilities," he said.

Carson might have said it this way: "Let’s stop worrying about people’s rights."

The thing is: both Carson and Trump are just two examples of how the Republican candidates represent the attitudes of the Republican base.

It is indeed happening here and now.

Monday, November 23, 2015

"Democrat" AZ Sen. Carl Begay to switch parties. Who will be next?

I suppose there is no real news in this report from the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required). Begay has been a treacherous Dem at best. Here are some essential snippets.

Democratic Sen. Carlyle Begay is widely expected to announce Monday he is switching parties, a move that ups the Republican Party’s already healthy advantage in the Senate.

Begay will hold a press conference hosted by the Arizona Republican Party, officials announced late Sunday. U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, as well as Senate President Andy Biggs, will join the Ganado Democrat at the event.

He frequently bucked the Democratic Party in votes on the Senate floor, and drew cries of betrayal from his Democratic colleagues in March when he provided the crucial 16th vote on five of the 13 budget bills approved in the 2015 legislative session.

Betrayal? Just Begayal.

What could be more Sinematic? Here (and here) are reactions to Kyrsten Sinema's US House vote against Syrian refugees.

Candidate update: Clinton and Sanders

Here are some short ones from Common Dreams.

"Clinton Sheds Progressive Façade with Bold Rightward Lurch"

From her call for a major air and ground war against ISIS to her attack on single-payer, Clinton appears to be sprinting full-speed to the right.

"Amid Terror Fever, Sanders Refuses to Back Down on Climate Threat Stance"

"If we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say, you're going to see all sorts of international conflict," said candidate, repeating previous assertion that climate change is our greatest national security threat.

"Democratic Socialism: Let Us Finish What FDR and MLK Started"

... this is what Roosevelt stated, and I quote: "We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men." End of quote. In other words, real freedom must include economic security. That was Roosevelt’s vision 70 years ago. It is my vision today. It is a vision that we have not yet achieved. It is time that we did.

Cartoons for the week ahead

As usual, from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Getting real about the Reality Gap: Why civil conversations between Republicans and Democrats are impossible

We Democrats need to get real. We keep hoping to reach out to "moderate" Republicans and sway them with our calm, rational, fact-based arguments. The problem is that Republicans have their own version of reality and thus their own facts. If we cannot agree on the basic facts, how can there ever be a meaningful conversation about how to best interpret those facts?

The decline of the unemployment rate on Obama's watch is but one example of how there is a "reality gap" in American politics. Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports on this instance (and others).

Whether or not the unemployment rate has improved is not a matter of opinion. No matter how one sees the world, a 7.8% rate is higher than a 5% rate. That’s equally true for Democrats and Republicans.

But most Republican voters don’t believe it. The "reality gap" persists, and it’s a problem.

If GOP voters want to make the case that Obama’s policies don’t deserve credit, fine. If they want to argue that there are other, more important metrics, no problem. If they want to suggest the rate would have fallen faster with a right-wing economic agenda, we can at least have the conversation.

But the polling suggests Republicans prefer to pretend reality isn’t true. It’s as if a form of cognitive dissonance is kicking in: the president is bad, falling unemployment is good, ergo unemployment must be higher, not lower.

Benen cites the polling numbers. Only 38% of the Republicans agree that unemployment has fallen since Obama took offijce; 53% think (erroneously) that it has risen. In contrast, 56% of the overall public think (accurately) that unemployment has fallen; only 34% think it has risen.

Maybe the bubble of conservative media has shielded many Republican voters from details the party’s voters don’t want to hear. Maybe Republican voters have a tribal reflex that gets in the way.

Whatever the cause, this "reality gap" makes conversations awfully difficult.

And that is why attempts at "civil discourse" between Democrats and Republicans are bound to fail. We need to get real.

Quote of the day: On Trump's lack of understanding of Islam and our constitution

Here's a good story from about the relation of ISIS to Muslims in general.

One long week after the Paris attacks, as Republican presidential candidates mounted an arms race over who can express the most overt and virulent prejudice toward Muslim Americans, MSNBC's Chuck Todd did something pretty unusual for a cable news host. He invited on an actual Muslim American person, Dalia Mogahed, who also happens to be an expert on Muslim attitudes in the US and globally, to politely ask her about all this.

... Todd was asking her about American leaders who demand that more Muslim leaders come out to condemn ISIS. Mogahed, rather than pointing out that they already are condemning ISIS, made an important point: this is the wrong question entirely, and we need to stop demanding that Muslims condemn terrorism.

I think we should take a step back and ask a different question, which is: 'Is it justified to demand that Muslims condemn terrorism?' Now that might sound a little radical. The reason I say that is this.

Condoning the killing of civilians is, to me, about the most monstrous thing you can to do. And to be suspected of doing something so monstrous, simply because of your faith, seems very unfair. Now when you look at the majority of terrorist attacks in the United States, according to the FBI, the majority of domestic terror attacks are actually committed by white, male Christians.

Now that's just the facts. When those things occur, we don't suspect other people who share their faith and ethnicity of condoning them. We assume that these things outrage them just as much as they do anyone else. And we have to afford this same assumption of innocence to Muslims.

She's absolutely right. This ritual, in which Muslim leaders and regular Muslims alike are expected to repeatedly denounce terrorism, is bigoted. (Will McCants, a scholar of jihadist ideology at Brookings, thinks it might also be counterproductive.) It implies that every Muslim is under suspicion of being sympathetic to terrorism unless he or she explicitly says otherwise. The implication is also that any crime committed by a Muslim is the responsibility of all Muslims simply by virtue of their shared religion.

What we're asking for isn't really a denunciation, it's an apology: an apology for Islam and for Muslims. This sort of thinking — blaming an entire group for the actions of a few individuals, assuming the worst about a person just because of their identity — is the very definition of bigotry.

Later in the interview, Todd asks Mogahed about Donald Trump and his anti-Muslim comments, for example saying he would consider putting all Muslims on a registry. What is the one thing that Mogahed thought Trump should read or do to better understand Islam?

And here is the quote of the day.

Mogahed's answer, I thought, was pretty perfect: "I don't want him to understand Islam. I want him to understand the constitution."

America unsettled

At least I hope that's the case. Being unsettled is not fatal. Various dictionaries define it as "disturbed" but also "likely to change." The former is certainly true. The latter offers hope for a more peaceful state of national mind.

Here, from Greg Sargent at the Plum Line (Washington Post) is the evidence from a recent poll and why it matters.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, the new Washington Post/ABC News poll portrays a nation fearful of more terrorist attacks, ready for more war (including sending in ground troops), opposed to admitting more refugees, and quick to dispense with any niceties about civil liberties ...

Here is some of the evidence.

By 81-18, Americans think it is likely that there will be a terrorist attack in the U.S. in the near future that will cause large numbers of lives to be lost.
60 percent of Americans want to see an "increased use of U.S. ground forces" against ISIS, and 73 percent of Americans want to see increased air strikes.
By 54-43, Americans oppose taking in refugees from the conflicts in Syria and other Mideast countries even after screening them for security.
By 72-25, Americans say that it is more important for the government to investigate terror threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy, rather than refraining from intruding on personal privacy.

And there is this.

By 55-45, Americans are not confident in the ability of the U.S. government to prevent further terror attacks against Americans here.

Sargent concludes:

Only time will tell how deep these public sentiments run or how durable they will prove. It’s hard to imagine that the American public would seriously be ready for another protracted ground war so quickly after the experience of the last decade, prompted by a terror attack on another country. But we’ll find out over time.

As I've said here in this blog before, it's also unclear whether the heated rhetoric from GOP candidates and other politicians cranks up those public sentiments or whether the candidates are representing transient trends in public attitudes. Or both.

No matter. Let's hope we can regain a more settled America - soon.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Finding true patriots and heroes in the reactions to Paris attack

Subtitle: And finding false ones too.

Think about possible reactions to threat. Three F's come to mind: fear, fight, flight. These are animalistic reactions. We should expect more from ourselves.

"Fear is the mind-killer" (from the science fiction classic Dune.) Great leaders know that. FDR knew it. And Obama knows it. Such leaders' actions are guided by fundamental values and they seek to calm their followers. In contrast, demagogues prey on it and use fear to excite and manipulate their followers.

We can find examples of both kinds of leaders in the aftermath of Paris. The New York Times editorial offers examples.

After the attacks in Paris, the world is again challenged by fear. With every bombing, beheading and mass shooting, the dread spreads, along with the urgency of defeating this nihilism.

But no less a challenge for the civilized world is the danger of self-inflicted injury. In the reaction and overreaction to terrorism comes the risk that society will lose its way.

In our time, disastrous things have been done in the name of safety: the invasion of Iraq, spawned by delusion and lies; the creation of an offshore fortress, sequestered from the Constitution, to lock up those perceived as threats, no matter the cost and injustice; an ever-expanding surveillance apparatus, to spy on the people, no matter the futility.

Al Qaeda and the Islamic State did not compel us to shackle ourselves to a security state, or to disgrace our values by vilifying and fearing refugees and immigrants.

This bitter truth is lost on the politicians now grasping for the Republican presidential nomination, whose guiding principle seems to be a crowd-pleasing strain of bullying cowardice. There is Donald Trump, who voiced his support for the registration of American Muslims. Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz think there is something proudly American about imposing a religious test on desperate refugees.

As for the members of the House, Democratic and Republican, who voted to effectively shut down the Syrian and Iraqi refugee program, and the governors who would somehow block Syrians from their borders — Americans should hope it’s just fearful ignorance that clouds their vision, and that in time it clears.

History will always be kinder to those who are resolute and brave. Like the Japanese-American soldiers of World War II, whose response to injustice was to fight overseas, defending democracy with their lives. Or the leaders today who have been calm in the crisis, willing to see and to say what the mob does not. People like the governor of Washington State, Jay Inslee, who has urged open doors for Syrian refugees, citing the Japanese-American internment as a disastrous precedent. "We regret that," he said. "We regret that we succumbed to fear."

Terrorist violence is terrifying, and it is natural to want to restore a shattered sense of safety. But the best way to do that has always been to draw upon our greatest ideals.

Let that be the litmus test of a great leader. Jay Inslee measures up. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey does not.

Read about another example of failed leadership, Marco Rubio, below the break.

Doug "Dixie" Ducey's immigration ideas in one cartoon

It's a Doozey of a toon.

Ducey promises yearly income tax cuts

Did you ever doubt what he would do with the money not spent on education? Here's the short report from the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required).

Gov. Doug Ducey says a law he signed earlier this year indexing income tax rates for inflation was an important first step to his goal of cutting incomes taxes every year he’s in office.

The Republican governor told hundreds of people attending the Arizona Tax Research Association’s outlook conference Friday that indexing rates prevents a "stealth tax increase" that can hit people when they get a raise.
He vowed to continue making targeted tax cuts in the coming year.

The governor will have cash in the bank for cuts even as he asks voters to approve a new school funding plan in May that mainly uses state land trust cash.

That is, Dicey Ducey is robbing the kids of the future to effect a transfer payment to the wealthy..

The Legislature’s top budget analyst told the group the state will have a $555 million surplus as of July 1.

So Il Duce could have paid the education debt from the surplus and had money to spare.

Friday, November 20, 2015

How AZ Reps voted on Syrian refugee bill

The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports on the votes and comments from our Representatives.

Today the U.S. House of Representatives voted on H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015.

H.R. 4038, sponsored by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), requires increased background screening into refugees or "covered aliens" from Iraq or Syria. "Covered aliens" applies to a refugee who "is a national or resident of Iraq or Syria; has no nationality and whose last habitual residence was in Iraq or Syria; or has been present in Iraq or Syria at any time on or after March 1, 2011," according to the bill.’’

The bill passed 289 to 137, with 47 Democrats in support and two Republicans in opposition, Rep. Walter Jones (R-North Carolina) and Steve King (R-Iowa). The only Arizona Democrat who voted in favor was 9th District Representative Kyrsten Sinema. All of Arizona’s Republican representatives voted in favor of the bill

Here is Ann Kirkpatrick:

"…Some politicians are demanding we close America’s door to Syrian refugees as they flee the brutality of ISIS and the Assad regime. These are families reeling from mass murder, teenage girls escaping sexual slavery, toddlers sleeping in dirty, dangerous encampments. The political discourse – and now legislation – targeting these refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks is truly beneath us."

Here are comments from Raul Grijalva:

"It is a fundamental American value to provide a safe haven for our most vulnerable neighbors. Syrian refugees are fleeing persecution and violence from the very same terrorists that attacked Paris last week. We cannot allow fear-mongering to influence policy that could mean the difference between life and death for these desperate families. We stand proudly against misguided attempts to repeat past mistakes that tarnish our nation’s history.

"This bill diverts resources from where they are really needed by creating an excessive review process that would add years to the resettlement process and prevent thousands of people from getting the protection they need. Our Syrian refugee vetting process is already the most comprehensive in the world, and these changes would stretch the federal government’s limited resources. Closing our doors to Syrian refugees fleeing violence and persecution isn’t just morally wrong; it threatens our national security by fueling the extremist narrative that the West is at war with Islam."

And here are comments from Kyrsten Sinema:

"After recent events, the American people deserve the assurances included in this bill. The Administration should not stop the program; it should certify refugees if they pass a thorough and rigorous screening process.

More work remains to keep our country safe. Threats, like the security gaps in the visa waiver program, remain and require sensible, bipartisan action. I am working on a proposal with both Republicans and Democrats to close this loophole and reduce the threat of terrorists entering the United States from other countries."

You can read more Sinematic comments at Arizona's Politics which also has the on-line copy of the bill.

McSally did not comment. Of course not.

Is Donald Trump a Narcissist?

Some mental health professionals are willing to take a stand on what might ail Donald Trump. Most such comments derive from the diagnosis of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Below are snippets from a blog in Psychology Today. (h/t Lise Hicks)

A few mental health professionals were concerned about my last blog, "Does Donald Trump Have Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Their concern was that American Psychiatric Association's guidelines warn clinicians they should not diagnose public figures.

I've pointed out that I am not a therapist but one many journalists who have explored whether Trump has a personality disorder characterized by grandiosity; an expectation that others will recognize one’s superiority; a lack of empathy, lack of truthfulness, and the tendency to degrade others. If clinicians cannot explore these things, thank goodness that journalists can.

However, his continued popularity has some concerned prominent clinicians ignoring the "Goldwater rule," which declares it unethical for psychiatrists to comment on an individual’s mental state without examining him personally and having the patient’s consent to make such comments.

"That mental-health professionals are even willing to talk about Trump in the first place may attest to their deep concern about a Trump presidency" writes Henry Alford in a November 11 edition of Vanity Fair. His psychological profile Donald Trump Actually a Narcissist? Therapists Weigh In! quotes a variety of clinicians who are confident that the billionaire's high profile and documented history of grandiose behavior makes the diagnosis obvious.

When I told a fellow cognitive psychologist about these popular media articles, and the favored diagnosis, his response was "we don't need therapists to figure that out."

Check out the cited articles for comments from the mental health professionals.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

An "ignoramus of Trumpian proportions"

Trump? Carson? Actually, no. Paul Waldman writing in the Washington Post Plum Line so characterizes Jeb Bush. Why? Because Bush went on record yesterday claiming that he should be the Commander in Chief of a much larger military machine. Here are snippets.

Today [Nov. 18], Jeb Bush will give a speech at the Citadel in South Carolina on defense policy, where he’ll argue that in order to defeat ISIS we need a bigger military than the one we have. From this, I conclude that one of two things must be true: Either he is an ignoramus of Trumpian proportions, or he thinks Republican primary voters are idiots.

How much bigger military do we need? And why?

If Jeb Bush wants to argue that what we really need to prepare for is a land war in Europe against the Russian army, a conflict for which the sheer size of our military might make a difference, then he can go ahead and make that case. But he isn’t. Instead, he’s taking the pre-existing belief all Republicans share — the military should always be bigger — and grafting it on to the thing Americans are afraid of at the moment, which is ISIS.

Right after the Paris attacks, many old-line Republicans expressed the hope that now, in the face of such a grim reality, primary voters would end their dalliance with silly inexperienced candidates and turn back to the serious, seasoned potential presidents. There were two problems with that hope. The first is that there was no reason to believe it would happen; if anything, with their fear elevated the voters will likely lean toward the candidates offering the most simplistic, bellicose answers. The second is that, as Jeb Bush is showing, serious Republican presidential candidates are rather difficult to find.

And the problem with Bush's so-called policy statements, as usual, is finding anything of any substance let alone smart.

... Like most of the Republican candidates for president, when Bush is asked what he’d actually do to fight ISIS, he offers a combination of things the Obama administration is already doing (Engage with our Arab allies! Use our air power!) and meaningless generalities (America has to lead!). None of it requires a dramatically larger military.

And, unfortunately for the political process of electing a president, none of it requires much thought from any candidate.

Back in Time: What the current GOP candidates would have said about German Jewish refugees in 1939

Some things just never change. Here's a cartoon from the New Republic.

Factoid: Back in Time was performed by Huey Lewis and The News for the movie Back to the Future.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

GOP candidates must stop doing what ISIS wants them to do

Obama had some very serious talk to those reacting badly to the Paris attacks by ISIS. Steve Benen (MaddowBlog) elaborates: the GOP candidates are doing exactly what ISIS wants.

"We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic. We don’t make good decisions if it’s based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks," Obama said. "I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric coming out of here in the course of this debate. They’ve been playing on fear to score political points or to advance their campaigns and it’s irresponsible. It needs to stop because the world is watching."

This wasn’t just empty rhetoric. The point about ISIS "recruitment tools" is of particular importance because it offers American political leaders a timely reminder: if you’re making things easier for ISIS, you’re doing it wrong.

The enemy is not some inscrutable foe with a mysterious worldview. As they’ve made clear many, many times, ISIS leaders want to be described in explicitly religious terms. They want to be characterized as a "state" and an existential threat to the West. They want to turn the West against refugees. ISIS leaders have a narrative – that Western leaders hate their faith – and they’re desperate to have their enemies reinforce that narrative as often, and as enthusiastically, as possible.

And in response, Republicans want to describe ISIS in explicitly religious terms. American conservatives keep describing ISIS as a "caliphate" and an existential threat to the West. The right has turned against refugees. Some Republicans have gone so far as to suggest Christians should explicitly be given preferential treatment over Muslims, effectively providing fodder for the very ISIS narrative the terrorists are eager to push.

... the point is that Republicans are inadvertently making things easier for ISIS when they should be doing the opposite. The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, went so far yesterday as to argue that American conservatives are "materially undermining the war against terrorism" and making a challenging situation worse.

So Benen offers the GOP this test and advice.

  1. Are you doing exactly what ISIS wants you to do?
  1. If the answer is "yes," stop.

Read more from other sources on what we have to lose by overreacting below the break.

Update on "circus politics": Colbert prepares America for a Trump presidency

From the coverage of Colbert's program - including a link to the video.

Recent polls suggest Trump's lead in the GOP primary is not only not going away, but growing. The business mogul and putative billionaire is now up almost 20 percentage points on Ben Carson, capturing 38 percent of potential Republicans, according to a recent Morning Consult survey.

"The GOP needs to stop panicking and embrace it," said Stephen Colbert on "The Late Show."

"Instead of fighting the wave, learn to enjoy drowning," he said. "It's going to be okay. Just take a deep breath of water and say the words out loud: President Trump." This was followed by a gag of disgust from the host, then a collective gag by the audience.

Joking over a potential Trump presidency seemed innocent in the summer, but as Colbert showed in his montage of news clips, the Donald seems poised to win the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. Since the holidays are basically a waste, this means, in effect, that Trump holds a commanding 20-point lead with only six weeks to go. Be scared. Be very scared.

Watch the clip ... and practice saying it: "President Trump."

Robert Reich exposes the dangers of circus politics

How did we get to a slate of candidates who buy their candidacy, say anything no matter how silly, and just flat out lie? And all that without doing any damage at all to their standing. And we might actually elect one of these clowns President? Here are snippets from Reich's blog.

The next president of the United States will confront a virulent jihadist threat, mounting effects of climate change, and an economy becoming ever more unequal.

We’re going to need an especially wise and able leader.

Yet our process for choosing that person is a circus, and several leading candidates are clowns.

How have we come to this?

First, anyone with enough ego and money can now run for president. [Political parties are now widely disdained.]

Second, candidates can now get away with saying just about anything about their qualifications or personal history, even if it’s a boldface lie. [Many Americans now consider the "mainstream media" biased.]

Third and finally, candidates can now use hatred and bigotry to gain support. [And no opinion leader any longer commands enough broad-based respect to influence a majority of the public.]

Why? Americans have stopped trusting the mediating institutions that used to filter and scrutinize potential leaders on behalf of the rest of us.

A growing number of Americans have become convinced the entire system is rigged – including the major parties, the media, and anyone honored by the establishment.

So now it’s just the candidates and the public, without anything in between.

Which means electoral success depends mainly on showmanship and self-promotion.

Such circus politics may be fun to watch, but it’s profoundly dangerous for America and the world.

We might, after all, elect one of the clowns.

What Bobby Jindal's exit says about the Republican candidates in one chart

That chart, thanks to Steve Benen at MaddowBlog, shows the deep disrespect the Republican voters have for governmental experience and qualifications for the position of the President of the United States. For example, Rick Perry has the most experience but was the first of the GOP candidates to fall.

Check out the chart to make your own observations. Here are mine. The three dropouts, Perry, Walker, and now Jindal, have over 75 years of experience in public service. Three of those remaining, Fiorina, Carson, and Trump, have zero experience in public office. By way of comparison, whatever else you might think of the dropouts, think about what they were not: a liar, a nitwit, and a bully.

Back-to-back Borowitz: Latest incredible news from Trump and Carson

Can Trump bash mosques and deport Hispanics at the same time?

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—There are growing fears among supporters of the Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump that his new focus on Muslims is distracting him from his campaign against Mexicans.

... a die-hard Trump volunteer who is working for his campaign in Iowa, called such criticism of her candidate "misguided." "You don’t get to be a successful businessman like Donald Trump without being able to multitask," she said.

Carson's foreign policy tools: "No Web site should be taken off the table"

DES MOINES (The Borowitz Report)— ... Speaking in Iowa, the retired neurosurgeon told an audience of supporters, "Any responsible policy on Syria must begin with a fact-finding mission, and such a mission must begin with Googling."

He said that "Google holds the key" to many questions about Syria. "Where is it? Who lives there? How many square miles is it? These are all things that have to be pinned down," he said.

... he said that he had "no plans" to Google Egypt, since he was already extremely well versed in that nation’s history.

Ducey and DeWit face off over education "deal"

Legal positions of both are covered by the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required).

Since Gov. Doug Ducey unveiled his plan to fund K-12 schools through increased payments from the state’s land trust, state Treasurer Jeff DeWit has warned that the proposal could find its ultimate downfall in court.

But the Ninth Floor said it is unconcerned with several possible litigation scenarios, none of which it says would hold up in court.

I'll mention the issues and then weigh in on what I think is the most important fault in the deal.

Does Congress have to approve the deal?

DeWit has long argued that Ducey’s land trust plan would violate the 1910 congressional act that authorized statehood for Arizona. The land trust plan, he argued, requires congressional action to amend the Arizona-New Mexico Enabling Act.

But Mike Liburdi, Ducey’s general counsel, said a 1999 amendment to the Enabling Act, which governs the uses of the Permanent Land Endowment Trust Fund, eliminates the need to seek congressional approval for the land trust plan. In prior years, when Arizona or New Mexico wanted to change the way it distributed land trust money, Congress would amend the act to meet the specific details of the states’ proposals. But in 1999, Congress added language stating the trust fund revenues can be distributed in whatever way is determined in the Arizona Constitution.

Are the ballot issues separate?

Furthermore, the Treasurer’s Office contends that the entire K-12 education package that will go before voters in a May 17 special election, of which the land trust is a major component, violates the Arizona Constitution’s "separate amendment" rule, which bars separate and unrelated measures from being combined in a single constitutional amendment.

The land trust portion of the plan would increase the trust fund’s annual payments to public schools, currently set at 2.5 percent of the fund’s value, to 6.9 percent for 10 years. The education measure, Proposition 123, would also reset base-level K-12 funding and create economic triggers that would allow the Legislature to suspend or reverse annual inflation payments to schools during fiscal downturns.

Proposition 123 was approved by the Legislature in an October special session. Its passage would settle a five-year lawsuit by K-12 groups over education funding.

The argument that Proposition 123 would violate the separate-amendment rule was negated by a 2012 court ruling, Liburdi said. In that case, a group opposed to a ballot measure that sought to create a "top-two" primary elections system in Arizona argued that it violated the rule because of a provision eliminating taxpayer-funded elections for political parties’ precinct committeeman elections. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the provisions were interrelated and part of a larger unifying purpose.

Does the raid on the state land trust violate the prudent investor rule?

The treasurer has also warned that the plan could run afoul of the state’s "prudent investor rule" by doing long-term damage to the fiscal health of the Permanent Land Endowment Trust Fund, which is made up of revenue from trust land sales and the returns on investments that are made with that money. The prudent investor law requires trustees to "invest and manage trust assets as a prudent investor would by considering the purposes, terms, distribution requirements and other circumstances of the trust. In satisfying this standard the trustee shall exercise reasonable care, skill and caution."

DeWit argues that Ducey’s plan will damage the long-term health of the fund. Though projections from state budget analysts indicate that the fund will have more money it when the 10-year land trust plan expires in 2026, it will have notably less than if Ducey’s plan doesn’t go into effect and the current distribution rates are left in place.

Arizona’s Enabling Act also requires trust fund money to be "prudently invested on a total rate of return basis."

However, Hogan [an attorney with the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest] was dismissive of the notion that the prudent investor rule could be used to block the way in court.

"So long as appropriate approvals are secured, the people of Arizona can direct how they want to distribute monies from that permanent fund. If they wanted to and if they got congressional approval, they could say we want 100 percent of the fund to be distributed right now to public schools," he said.

This latter argument about prudent investment strikes me as the strongest case. Any way you cut it, Ducey's deal would result in less money for future students than would be available if moneys for education came from other sources and the state land trust was left in place as is.