Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, September 19, 2016

Who is Ha-Joon Chang and why should you care?


From where I sit, Professor Ha-Joon Chang is the guy who is now and will continue to provide a great deal of research and economic theory which will serve as philosophical underpinning for OurRevolution (following up on Bernie Sanders' earth-shattering and revolutionary presidential campaign).

Chang says he has been influenced by a wide range of economists,
Many people find it difficult to place me in the intellectual universe of economics. This is not surprising, given that I have been influenced by many different economists, from Karl Marx on the left to Friedrich von Hayek on the right. [...]
With the collapse of communism, people have come to dismiss Marx as an irrelevance, but this is wrong. I don’t have much time for Marx’s utopian vision of socialism nor his labour theory of value, but his understanding of capitalism was superior in many ways to those of the self-appointed advocates of capitalism.
Frankly, I believe advocacy for the philosophical underpinnings (economic theory) that will support OurRevolution is a much more productive focus than right now being overly concerned about how and why Bernie Sanders is not now the Democratic nominee for President.

Consider some of Chang's thoughts and perspectives on current issues. These clips are brief. Two of them are roughly two minutes; the third is about five minutes long.



and on so-called Free Markets



and on neoclassical (and neoliberal) economics



In 2018, there will be more statewide offices on the general election ballot in Arizona. Prospective candidates should be thinking NOW about preparing for those campaigns, all of them. Especially important will be the governor's race.

One factor in the 2014 contest between Fred DuVal and Scrooge McDucey was that the Democratic candidate did not adequately distinguish (contrast) himself with the opponent. 

Despite Bernie losing out on the nomination this year, he set forth a powerful example of how to rally electoral support. In 2018 Arizona, there will be no need to be concerned about electing the first female governor for our state. So, let's see someone with DuVal's presence take Bernie's example to the next level.


*****

Today it is a case of the grasshopper pitted against the elephant. But tomorrow the elephant will have its guts ripped out. Le Loi, Vietnamese emperor, 15th Century

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Beware the High-Voltage Wires -- APS sued Bob Burns to quash subpoenas

On Friday, right before the weekend -- a traditional time to break news one hopes will not get much attention -- Arizona Public Service and its mother ship, Pinnacle West Capital Corp sued Corporation Commissioner Bob Burns in Maricopa County Superior Court claiming the subpoenas he issued recently are politically motivated and constitute illegal harassment. APS's action and statements are dripping with irony.

Robert Anglen, Arizona Republic reporter, posted about it Friday evening.
Arizona's largest utility is suing a state regulator for trying to determine if it used money from ratepayers to influence an election.
Arizona Public Service Co., in a series of legal filings Friday, said subpoenas filed by Arizona Corporation Commissioner Robert Burns are unlawful and is asking the court to make him pay legal fees and other costs.
APS accused Burns of using his official position to harass and retaliate against the company in violation of the First Amendment. They said he intentionally made demands to coincide with key election dates to influence the 2016 commission races.
"Commissioner Burns is demanding election-related disclosures based on his personal view that support for any particular (Arizona Corporation Commission) candidate should be open and transparent," APS Vice President Barbara Lockwood wrote in a letter to the commission Friday. "Arizona law does not require the disclosure he demands."
A spokesman for APS said Friday that the documents laid out the company’s position and he would have no further comment.
“We don’t discuss pending litigation,” APS spokesman Jim McDonald said.
First, typically institutions targeted with litigation generally don't discuss pending litigation. APS launched this attack. One would think they'd want to tell their story about the situation. But they don't.

Might that be because the more attention the public pays to the lawsuit, the greater the likelihood it will backfire on APS?

Second, Arizona's two largest power utilities, APS and Salt River Project are ALWAYS, during legislative sessions, working diligently to exert political influence on lawmaking. While they do some of that work in the open, very few everyday citizens ever hear about it.

This blog has covered these issues on numerous occasions over the last four plus years. Scan through the archives (in the right hand column) for background insight.

For a utility that's accustomed to being protected by elected officials, don't you (now that Bob Burns is persecuting and harassing them) feel a deep sense of compassion for poor buggers like APS/Pinnacle West chairman and CEO Don Brandt (who reportedly makes $12 Million/year)? By the way, Pinnacle West (a publicly traded company) is worth, according to it's 2015 annual report, more than $7.1 Billion (see page 19 of the linked pdf file).




The squawking from an agency under investigation by the FBI for its role in the triumphant installation of Doug Little and Tom Forese, APS's wholly-owned stooges, seems a lot like a cat that got its tail caught under a rocking chair.

Beyond just the squealing, APS and Pinnacle West are conducting themselves as if they are cornered predators. That's not necessarily unreasonable. They are predators after all. And if Burns is re-elected along with Bill Mundell and Tom Chabin winning the two other open seats in November, they might actually be boxed into a corner.

A sweet set of possibilities for sure from the vantage of Arizona ratepayers and citizens.

Barbara Lockwood also wrote, in an item filed with the Corporation Commission,
The Commission is clearly entitled to APS information as it relates to setting electric rates. As such, and completely independent of these subpoenas, APS will provide the requested publicly-available APS information to Commissioner Burns on September 15th. APS will also provide the remaining responsive non-public APS information upon the execution of an appropriate confidentiality agreement, as is routine Commission practice for the disclosure of non-public information. This information will demonstrate, yet again, that no ratepayer funds have been used for political purposes.
Through his subpoenas, Commissioner Burns is demanding election-related disclosures based on his personal view that support for any particular ACC candidate should be open and transparent. As a citizen, Commissioner Burns is entitled to his view, but as a Commissioner, he is bound to follow the law, and Arizona law does not require the disclosure he demands.
One can read between the lines of Lockwood's letter to the ACC. She states that "no ratepayer funds have been used for political purposes." But as has been reported repeatedly over the last several years, APS has refused to deny spending money to influence the election of commissioners who will do its bidding. This is not simply "Commissioner Burns' personal view." It's widely understood public opinion based on APS's non-denial denials over the years.

APS is hoping to bypass citizen concerns about its plutocratic abuse of the electoral process by getting courts to again assert that Corporations are People.

We must not allow them to get away with it.

*****

Today it is a case of the grasshopper pitted against the elephant. But tomorrow the elephant will have its guts ripped out. Le Loi, Vietnamese emperor, 15th Century

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Is THIS the way to get voters' attention?

Though I've become pretty much disillusioned with the Arizona Democratic Party, these two candidates, Tom Chabin and Bill Mundell rise above the crowd because they are taking a stand to be proud of.



The last several years the Arizona Corporation Commission has been taken over by Arizona Public Service-owned henchmen.

Republican Bob Burns, the only current member of the ACC that has had the balls to stand up to the state's largest utility, has taken a lot of flack from the crony capitalists. When Mr. Burns was in the state legislature, I was no fan of his. But he has demonstrated genuine independence and commitment to his word in representing ratepayers and taxpayers since first elected to the ACC in 2012.

There are five members of that commission. They set policy and also act as judicial officers in matters of enforcement. If Arizona voters stand firm and elect Chabin, Mundell and re-elect Burns, the people of our state will be able to count it a victory. With three members (should Mundell, Chabin and Burns win in November), citizens will once again be able to build trust in a utility-regulating commission that answers to us rather than to APS.

We have the opportunity to reclaim that institution from the corruption it has operated under for far too long. Trash Burner Bob Stump is termed out and will no longer be able to serve his corporate masters in that role after the beginning of 2017. Andy (toxin) Tobin, appointed by Scrooge McDucey to replace Susan Bitter Smith, is also on the general election ballot. He too can and will be ousted if the message remains clear and focused for the next two months.

This is a crucial opportunity to demonstrate that Arizonans will no longer tolerate our state government earning the dubious distinction of being the most corrupt in the country.

Candidates for county-wide offices (such as Maricopa County Sheriff) will, if they intend to win, take a lesson from Mundell and Chabin, two guys with steel backbones.

****

Today it is a case of the grasshopper pitted against the elephant. But tomorrow the elephant will have its guts ripped out. Le Loi, Vietnamese emperor, 15th Century

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

AZ SoS commits Election Tampering by "Oops?"

World renowned computer scientist Admiral Grace Hopper (1906-1992), as a way of busting through military bureaucracy and promoting innovation, is credited with the saying, "it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission." Unfortunately, that saying is often employed to escape accountability for "inadvertent" election tampering.

Chandler attorney and citizen activist Tom Ryan today filed a 5-page complaint with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Secretary of State Michele Reagan calling for Brnovich to seek a court injunction to postpone next week's special election for Propositions 123 and 124.

To view video of Ryan explaining the complaint and answering questions from reporters, go to azfamily.com. (I have trouble embedding video from that website)

According to state statute, elections for ballot measures must be preceded by timely delivery of disclosure and explanation to all voters of the questions they are being asked to decide. Ryan's complaint cites violations of Arizona Revised Statutes §§ 19-101.01 and 19-123 and references the Article VII, § 12 of the Arizona Constitution, which states,
There shall be enacted registration and other laws to secure the purity of elections and guard against abuses of the elective franchise. 
19-101.01 was passed by the legislature because they were pissed off about those pesky voters who thought they knew better than the elected representatives. Now they may find themselves hoisted upon their own petard. This provision requires strict, rather than substantial compliance with election procedures regarding referenda.
The legislature recognizes that a referendum may overrule the results of determinations made by representatives of the people and therefore finds and determines that strict compliance with the constitutional and statutory requirements for the referendum process and in the application and enforcement of those requirements provides the surest method for safeguarding the integrity and accuracy of the referendum process. Therefore, the legislature finds and declares its intent that the constitutional and statutory requirements for the referendum be strictly construed and that persons using the referendum process strictly comply with those constitutional and statutory requirements.
The provision Secretary Reagan (a person) must comply with is in 19-123,
A. When the secretary of state is ordered by the legislature, or by petition under the initiative and referendum provisions of the constitution, to submit to the people a measure or proposed amendment to the constitution, the secretary of state shall cause to be printed, at the expense of the state, except as otherwise provided in this article, a publicity pamphlet, which shall contain: [a list of six items follows] [...]
B. The secretary of state shall mail one copy of the publicity pamphlet to every household that contains a registered voter. The mailings may be made over a period of days but shall be mailed in order to be delivered to households before the earliest date for receipt by registered voters of any requested early ballots for the general election.
Ryan's complaint also cites a KJZZ.org story indicating Reagan's spokesman Matt Roberts acknowledged the problem, blaming it on a vendor.

Of course, Mr. Roberts immediately began the process of minimizing the Secretary's error and rationalizing it away.
Roberts acknowledges the 200,000 pamphlets are going out after the deadline, but he doesn’t see this as having a major impact on voters.
“Many folks I’m sure take the time to educate themselves via their local newspaper, the media, their legislators. We make a lot of information available on our site,” he said, adding that publicity pamphlets are a part of that.
As for why they didn’t alert the public back at the end of April about the problem?
“In all candor, we’ve been focused on getting those pamphlets out immediately and as soon as possible,” Roberts said.
From the azfamily.com story,
Arizona's string of election problems continues.
Heavyweight Valley attorney Tom Ryan has asked the Attorney General's office to postpone next week's election for at least 90 days, claiming the state's top election official botched it. [...]
The error, according to Ryan, potentially means 400,000 voters were left without publicity pamphlets when early voting began April 20.
These pamphlets provide information as well written arguments for and against two current ballot propositions: Proposition 123 and 124. [...]
The problem is the latest to plague Arizona's election system.
In March, Maricopa County voters stood in line for up five and six hours to cast their ballots in the presidential preference election.
Last month, errors on the Spanish language May 17 ballot were discovered, costing taxpayers $400,000 to fix.
Ryan is no stranger to political fights.
Last year he forced the resignation of the chairwoman of Arizona Corporation Commission, Susan Bitter Smith, over a conflict of interest.
The Arizona Republic reported on the complaint,
Ken Bennett, who was secretary of state from 2009 to 2015, said there were no complaints from voters about not receiving their pamphlets in earlier elections. And Bennett, who now lives in Pinal County, said he thought it was curious when he received his pamphlet just a few days ago.
"I wondered why we didn't get our pamphlet 30 days early," he said.
He said initial explanations from the Secretary of State's Office that the 2011 policy was intended to spare voters on the early-ballot list from getting the pamphlet "made no sense."
"That's exactly who should get it," Bennett said, noting those voters by definition cast their ballots ahead of the official election day and need the information in the booklet.
Corporate media and American governmental institutions typically are loathe to acknowledge election tampering, given the sheer complexity of the systems that must be employed in order to facilitate the process of casting, collecting, counting and reporting on millions of votes; in national elections, hundreds of millions of votes.

However, EVERY election system is subject to intentional and unintentional errors. Even inadvertent problems can (adversely) impact the outcome of any given election. The higher the stakes, the higher the likelihood that somebody will try to influence the election in ways that subvert the will of the people.

In Arizona, found by Harvard researchers to be the most corrupt state government in the country, that should be considered a given.

In the upcoming special election, with billions of dollars at stake, should we give either Reagan, or Scrooge McDucey, the benefit of the doubt?

By the way vote NO on Prop 123, whether the election is held on May 17 or some other time.

Cartoon posted by authority of the Fair Use Act.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Disobedience

What does it take to enact substantive societal change?

Has any major change in American society, or throughout human history, occurred without a movement?

An important tactic in political movements is civil disobedience.


Hope is belief in the plausibility of the possible, as opposed to the necessity of the probable.
We don’t have the tanks, and we don’t have the armed forces. Nonviolent civil disobedience is me making my voice heard against a powerful force that is holding us back.
Keystone turned out to be a great victory because all over the country and the world, people looked up and saw that you actually can beat big oil.
It may seem impossible right now to defeat/prevent climate chaos, but social movements have shown that the limits of the possible are there to be moved.
To practice civil disobedience is necessary to be able to pursue a better life for our people.
It’s the people who are engaged that determines what government does. And all we have is a choice to make about whether we’re going to be one of those people or not.
BreakFree2016.org

Join the global movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
What makes a breach of law an act of civil disobedience? When is civil disobedience morally justified? How should the law respond to people who engage in civil disobedience? Discussions of civil disobedience have tended to focus on the first two of these questions. On the most widely accepted account of civil disobedience, famously defended by John Rawls (1971), civil disobedience is a public, non-violent and conscientious breach of law undertaken with the aim of bringing about a change in laws or government policies. On this account, people who engage in civil disobedience are willing to accept the legal consequences of their actions, as this shows their fidelity to the rule of law. Civil disobedience, given its place at the boundary of fidelity to law, is said to fall between legal protest, on the one hand, and conscientious refusal, revolutionary action, militant protest and organised forcible resistance, on the other hand.
Depending on the outcome of the 2016 general election, more civil disobedience may be necessary nationally.

In Arizona, because government, political, and election systems are so dysfunctional and corrupt, civil disobedience may become a prerequisite to keeping our state from becoming an official Koch Enterprises colony.

*****

Today it is a case of the grasshopper pitted against the elephant. But tomorrow the elephant will have its guts ripped out. Le Loi, Vietnamese emperor, 15th Century

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Mundell and Chabin seek federal investigation into ACC corruption and conflict of interest

According to Stacy Pearson with Strategies 360, this afternoon, Bill Mundell and Tom Chabin, Democratic and Clean Elections candidates for seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission sent the following letter seeking a federal investigation into ongoing corruption and conflict-of-interest in that agency by John Leonardo, US Attorney for the District of Arizona.

-----

Dear Judge Leonardo:

The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) is an elected body responsible for regulating the state’s public utilities (electricity, telecommunications, natural gas and water), in addition to facilitating the incorporation of businesses and organizations, securities regulation and railroad/pipeline safety. In carrying out its responsibility to regulate the telecommunications and electric utilities in Arizona, the ACC works closely with both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The commission also works closely with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and state and federal law-enforcement in enforcing both federal and state securities statutes. Commissioners function in an Executive capacity, yet they also adopt rules and regulations thereby functioning in a Legislative capacity, and have Judicial powers when making decisions in contested matters, most notably those affecting the utility rates of Arizona consumers.

Given the incredibly powerful and broad scope of their duties, it is imperative that the commission’s ability to impartially carry out its duties isn’t compromised. This is why we are running for two of the commission seats in 2016 – to restore integrity and balance to the commission. However, as more and more information becomes public, it is becoming apparent that an electoral solution alone may not solve the ongoing controversies of the ACC. We are gravely concerned that certain commissioners, and other elected officials, are engaged in unethical and potentially illegal activities.

On March 24, 2016, it was reported in The Arizona Republic that the newest appointed commissioner, Andy Tobin, had not reported the fact that his brother works for Cox Media. Cox Media is an affiliated business of Cox Communications – a business regulated by the ACC. The fact that Mr. Tobin hid this conflict-of-interest during his appointment process is incredibly troubling, and given the fact that he was replacing a Commissioner who also had a conflict-of-interest related to Cox Communications, it is simply inexcusable.

If this were an isolated incident one could chalk it up to a mistake, albeit a big one, but a mistake nonetheless. And if that were the case we most likely wouldn’t be writing this letter today.

However, this is just another in a series of troubling incidents that have surrounded the ACC since the 2014 election cycle. To wit:
  • The ongoing issue of Commissioner Stump’s text messages – some of which have been recovered despite vast efforts by Mr. Stump to discard his cell phone and any trail of his communications - with a utility executive, commission candidates, and political operatives running a “dark money” campaign aimed at getting those candidates elected to commission. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has stated that some of the text messages could be considered public records, yet a Maricopa County judge has ruled the texts are not public record. How is it that hundreds of text messages being sent to political operatives and regulated executives from a public official on a phone paid for by public dollars are not public record? The very notion defies logic.
  • There is evidence to support this theory. Since being elected, both Commissioners Little and Forese have vigorously defended the interests of APS at the expense of ratepayers and other interests. Even to the point of completely stopping fellow Commissioner Bob Burns’ efforts to require disclosure from APS on any political spending around the Arizona Corporation Commission races. The actions of Commissioners Little and Forese are unprecedented.
  • In addition to Commissioner Tobin’s undisclosed conflict-of-interest discussed above, he also has another conflict-of-interest which he initially concealed from Governor Ducey during the appointment process: his son-in-law works for SolarCity, another business which is regulated by the ACC. Upon learning about this conflict-of-interest, the commission’s own counsel told Mr. Tobin he wasn’t “electable or appointable”. Yet, this didn’t stop Mr. Tobin, Governor Ducey, or the Arizona legislature from moving forward with his appointment. Which begs the question, if the Governor is concerned about the impartiality of the commission, why would he replace a conflicted commissioner with another person who has not just one conflict, but two?
So, does all of this mean the ACC has been compromised? We honestly don’t know, but it is with that question in mind that we turn to you.

As the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, we are asking you to initiate a full investigation into possible corruption involving the ACC. Specifically:
  1. Is Commissioner Tobin eligible to serve on the commission?
  2. Does HB2123 constitute “special legislation”, which is illegal under Arizona state law? And is it an attempt to conceal an illegal appointment of an unqualified individual to the commission?
  3. Has the ACC been unduly influenced by Arizona Public Service or any other regulated entity’s political activities?
  4. Have there been communications between commissioners, candidates and independent political operations in order to illegally coordinate campaign activities?
  5. Why do Commissioner Stump’s text messages continue to be hidden from the public, even though the Arizona Attorney General has deemed some of them as public record?
  6. Has there been collusion between certain sitting commissioners and Arizona Public Service to prevent public disclosure of certain campaign expenditures?
We encourage you to look at any other commission related activities you deem appropriate to review. Ensuring an uncompromised commission is of the utmost importance to the consumers of Arizona.

We understand the serious nature of this letter. We turn to you only because we cannot trust the vast majority of our state officials to be unbiased in this matter.

It is obvious we cannot trust the commission to police itself – other than Commissioner Burns, the current commissioners have shown they will do everything to maintain a cloud of secrecy over their activities. It is also obvious that we cannot place faith in the Governor or the legislature to take any action. They have already shown complicity in supporting the questionable activities surrounding the commission and are actively seeking options to expand the influence of dark money on Arizona’s elections, as evidenced with the recent passage of Senate Bill 1516.

The only statewide elected official who has shown any interest in bringing some accountability to the commission is Attorney General Mark Brnovich. He sought the removal of Commissioner Susan Bitter-Smith prior to her resignation and has tried to secure the public release of some of Commissioner Stump’s text message. We have copied him on this letter in hopes that he will join our call to your office to fully investigate the activities of the ACC.

Arizona voters and consumers deserve to know if one of the most powerful regulatory bodies in the state is serving their interests, or if it has instead become a captive body to the very interests it is supposed to be regulating. Thank you for your time and consideration of this serious matter.

Sincerely,


Bill Mundell Tom Chabin

[Ed. links embedded above provided by the Arizona Eagletarian and were not in the original letter. They are intended to provide background only, and not to infer any approval or disapproval by or from Mundell or Chabin.]

SCOTUS again validates Independent Redistricting in Arizona

The Supreme Court of the United States today UNANIMOUSLY ruled in favor of the people of Arizona, by way of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, in Harris v AIRC.

The opinion delivered by Justice Stephen Breyer reads, in part,

On the basis of the facts that we have summarized, the District Court majority found that “the population deviations were primarily a result of good-faith efforts to comply with the Voting Rights Act . . . even though partisanship played some role.” 993 F. Supp. 2d, at 1046. This conclusion was well supported in the record. And as a result, appellants have not shown that it is more probable than not that illegitimate considerations were the predominant motivation behind the plan’s deviations from mathematically equal district populations—deviations that were under 10%. Consequently, they have failed to show that the Commission’s plan violates the Equal Protection Clause...
On December 9, 2015, the Arizona Eagletarian reported,
Remember from yesterday's post that news coverage of the hearing seemed to lean toward wondering how the Harris plaintiffs could even justify bringing this case to the Supreme Court? Therefore, as USA Today reported,
"The Supreme Court on Tuesday appeared unlikely to toss out Arizona's state legislative districts because of population differences, but several justices expressed concern that an independent redistricting commission took politics, along with race and ethnicity, into consideration."
This evening I began reading the 74-page transcript. It didn't take long before I could see why Richard Wolf would be so bold as to make that his lede.
The AIRC issued the following statement regarding the ruling,
Wednesday, April 20, 2016 -
Today, the United States Supreme Court unanimously held that Arizona's state legislative districts are constitutional.
The Commission is pleased with the Court's decision and is gratified that Arizonans will continue using the districting plans created by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission in Arizona legislative elections through 2020. The Commission is grateful for the pro bono representation it received from Paul Smith and his team at the law firm Jenner Block.