Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, March 30, 2015

Bad Bills (a bunch of them) to be debated on AZ House floor on Tuesday

Shoot 'em up Shooter's VOTER SUPPRESSION bill was "retained on the calendar" today in the Arizona House. That, of course, just means that even though the House leadership scheduled it for floor debate, somebody decided it should wait.

One source suggested to me that since Scrooge McDucey was vetoing bills today, House leadership wanted to sort of take his temperature to get a feel for how he might react to controversial bills.

Don't fret, SB1339 is back on the COW calendar for Tuesday (tomorrow)... along with several other stinkers (yes, strikers too, but also very bad bills).

A sampling of Tuesday's bad (or at least controversial) bills:

  • SB1088 -- ALEC Lesko's striker amendment to expand ESAs (funding shifts to private schools, away from public schools) was added in the House to change a bill that had been about income tax bracket inflation indexing. Now, any child who was awarded private school funding because her or his family income does not exceed 185 percent of the amount that would qualify them for free or reduced school lunches, would be allowed to continue in a private school as long as they want. For the current school year, that means a child in a four member household with an annual income of not more than $44,122 qualifies for as long as they continue to attend the private school, even if their family's income later exceeds that 185 percent mark.
  • SB1237 -- changes a bill passed in the Senate as an authorization for ADOT/DMV to begin issuing driver licenses electronically now to be a bill to make changes to the Citizens Clean Elections Act, including to exclude non-participating candidates from penalties for non-compliance with certain previously applicable provisions of the Act.
  • SB1291 -- a bill (not amended in the House, therefore already passed in the Senate) to preempt local control of firearms in political subdivisions (cities, towns, counties).
  • SB1467 -- Sylvia Allen's bill to protect the employment rights of law enforcement officers subject to investigation for allegations of wrongdoing. This, of course, was prompted by Sen. Allen's son-in-law getting pinched for receiving oral sex from a female prisoner in exchange for cigarettes. What was that she was saying the other day about moral decay and the soul of America?
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SB1241 -- to preempt political subdivisions from regulating (banning) plastic bags in retail stores, is on a House Third Reading calendar for Tuesday, having been debated in COW and receiving a DO PASS AMENDED recommendation. Because it was a different subject (before the House striker), if the House passes it tomorrow, the Senate will still have to decide whether or not to agree to the changed bill.

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

Sunday, March 29, 2015

SHAMELESSLY DEFIANT! -- the GOP irrational rationalization for Voter Suppression

"Protecting the integrity" of the vote, Don "shoot 'em up" Shooter (R-LD13/"Yuma") says. But when pressed for examples, the ONLY thing he could come up with is that they want to prevent organized groups (citing Union activity and minority advocacy organizations) from ensuring the votes of large numbers of voters actually get counted. Don't believe me? Take a look for yourself.

During the March 25 hearing of the House Appropriations committee debate on Shooter's strike-all amendment to SB1339, this took place:




Leading off, Shooter nonchalantly cited his dread of having organized groups assist voters with early ballot REQUESTS, wholly unrelated to the bill. This introduces a logical fallacy into the debate. Think of it as hitting a foul ball (not even close to the foul line) and having the umpire (committee chair Justin Olson) declining to call it a foul ball. Shooter aggressively runs to first base and does his best to STEAL more bases.

Testifying after Shooter, state elections director Eric Spencer says, "the Secretary of State sees no reason to curb a longstanding tradition in Arizona politics," to attempt to distract the defense (House Minority Leader Eric Meyer and Rep. Andrew Sherwood) by saying his office doesn't want to prevent family members from turning in other voters' ballots.

By obvious inference, the SOS, Shooter and the GOP caucus in the AZ House brazenly advocate for VOTER SUPPRESSION of groups they don't want to vote. In this case, it includes elderly and other home bound voters.

House Minority Leader Eric Meyer (D-LD28/Phoenix) rightfully challenged Shooter because Shooter's cited examples had nothing to do with either early ballot collection or anything else related to the strike all amendment being debated in the House Appropriations committee last Wednesday.

This, of course, is the fulcrum underlying the imbalance of political power in Arizona. Just as the GOP legislature sued the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission because it represents the PEOPLE working to strengthen the voice of the voter in public policy, so too is the issue of VOTER SUPPRESSION.

Shooter and Spencer were at bat for Team Plutocracy. Meyer and Rep. Andrew Sherwood (D-LD26/Tempe) were pitching/playing defense for Team We the People (aka, Team Genuine Republicanism).

Spencer, trying to project a sense of fairness, and as a way to avoid having to cite an actual, tangible problem that they want to address with this measure, responded to Sherwood's effort to get the elections official to cite examples of fraudulent incidents in Arizona, said, "If you'll permit me to answer that in a couple of different ways, I do think this subject is worth exploring." He then goes on to NOT answer the question. Instead, he tries to suggest that during the 2014 campaign Democratic Secretary of State candidate Terry Goddard, acknowledged and believed was a problem in Arizona.

Why was he pretending to speak for Goddard? That's brazen subterfuge.

Spencer then disrespects the Democratic committee members challenging him by saying that their request for specific examples suggests "we lurch from scandal to scandal." He wants to be proactive and that's how he validates the GOP VOTER SUPPRESSION efforts without having to prove there's any real, tangible problem. "Identifying the problem before it becomes a crisis is a far better way to address this," Spencer indicated, thereby casting a baited hook with his verbal sleight of hand. Setting the stage with his subterfuge and misdirection, he proclaims that, "third, there are legions of examples of ballot harvesting fraud occurring across the country." Except that his legions were nothing that demonstrates actual fraud.

Spencer cited arrests "last month of two individuals" in connection with a ballot harvesting operation. News stories do NOT cite allegations of fraud but rather indictment/arrest FOR having possession of ballots from people without their permission. In other words, no crime except for the fact that Texas passed a law to criminalize citizens responsibly carrying out responsibilities of citizenship (in this case by helping people get their signed, sealed ballots delivered and counted).
Garza is accused of having fewer than 10 official ballots or official carrier envelopes without the voter’s consent.
Elizondo’s charge involves possessing more than 10 but less than 20 official ballots or official carrier envelope’s without the voter’s consent making it a third degree felony.
Prosecutors did not specify which race the alleged voter fraud took place, but the following races were on the ballot...
This is just too convenient. The story (vaguely) uses the words "voter fraud" but only indicates the problem was unauthorized possession of the ballots. It does NOT say anything about any ballots having been changed or tampered with in any way.

The Cameron County indictments appear to have been in response to a group committed to finding fraud, but NOT indicating that there was any actual fraud. Here's what they think takes place,
"The pattern is for the politiqueras, which is a person paid by candidates, to go and specifically take votes from people, the mail in votes, they go and they pick up the mail in ballots from people who live in assisted living centers, the nursing homes. They take their ballots, fill them out for them and then mail it and those votes are not valid votes, they're stealing votes and so it ruins the authenticity of all our elections," says Flores.
But the story presents NO examples of anything other than just collecting the ballots and delivering them to be counted. The fraud is only something these activists invoke a Spanglish word to scare the public into a gut-level fear reaction (demagoguery) without citing any examples of actual tampering with ballots.

Spencer then said, "Miami-Dade County is legendary for ballot harvesting abuse," yada, yada, yada. This is ENTIRELY partisan.

Thoughtful consideration of Texas' history of voter suppression laws is germane to this discussion and to properly understanding exactly what problem Spencer cites as justification for suppressing the voting rights of thousands of Arizona voters. And when another state goes after CITIZENS for exercising their rights and responsibilities as citizens, the only legitimate characterization is fear-based VOTER SUPPRESSION.

There you have it. State elections director Eric Spencer cites overly vague reports of situations in other states because there has been NO voter fraud by groups assisting with ballot collection in Arizona. And when he cites those out of state incidents, he apparently doesn't have to explain what actually took place in those states. "If we are aware of the abuses that happen in other states, I don't see how we can sit back and just wait for it to happen in Arizona," fearmonger Spencer pronounced, followed by concern about people who will be disenfranchised if we don't proactively disenfranchise Latinos and elderly, home bound voters.

Again, BRAZEN disrespect for voters who tend to vote Democratic so we can protect the Republican voters from imagined malefactors.

There you have it. We have known for more than two years that Michele Reagan was all about VOTER SUPPRESSION. Now we have her mouthpiece asking for a prophylactic measure to disenfranchise a disfavored group based on ginned up stories to prevent a dreaded dilution of the votes of his favored voters.

THIS is just one more measure nailing shut the lips of voters so that the Voice of the People has a much harder time fighting the blatant plutocracy by Republicans at the Arizona Capitol.

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NOTE: SB1339 is on House Committee of the Whole debate calendar #2 for Monday afternoon. House leadership typically does not announce times for COW calendar debates. If you have the opportunity to check from time to time, you may be able to catch the live streaming broadcast of the debate at this link.


The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any. - Alice Walker
— Revolutionary Quotes (@QuoteRevolution) March 7, 2015

Obviously, the GOP wants to psych out Minority and elderly voters to disenfranchise them. We don't have to let this happen.

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

Monday, March 23, 2015

Is APS behind the Door-to-Door Push Poll Targeting Rooftop Solar?

Last Friday, the Arizona Capitol Times reported:
A dark money group based in Virginia is going door to door in the Valley, asking solar customers to detail their negative experiences with solar leasing.
The Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a 501(c)(4) group with a mission to expose government waste, fraud and abuse, visited hundreds of homes so far, including Scott McCay’s house in Phoenix.
“This whole thing smelled like a bad load of fish,” McCay said.
McCay has a solar lease from SolarCity and has been involved with Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed (TUSK) rallies to protest solar fee hikes. He has no complaints about his solar system, he said.
A canvasser for TPA pulled up to McCay’s house last week and asked if there were “any false promises or misrepresentations” when he got solar. A form left with McCay, which he sent to the Arizona Capitol Times, says, “Many Arizonans experience unforeseen problems when it comes to solar. This includes safety risks in times of an emergency, or higher rates when it comes to monthly fees.” [...]
“We want to talk to folks that have these solar panels … and find out just what their experience is, and really just how they were treated by these solar companies,” [TPA President David] Williams said, though he acknowledged that the group is really looking for the more negative experiences. (emphasis mine)
The Cap Times story links TPA to Dark Money high priest Sean Noble. By the way, if TPA's mission is to investigate "government waste, fraud and abuse," what business do they have investigating the main rival of an IOU (investor-owned utility)?

The reporter also got a statement from Arizona Public Service, the (investor-owned) electric power utility that stands to gain the most from a push poll of this nature.
When asked whether APS had any affiliation with the Taxpayers group, the utility said it doesn’t “discuss affiliations with or donations to 501c4 organizations.”
This, of course, is a classic "non-denial denial."
Non-denial denial is a statement that seems direct, clearcut and unambiguous at first hearing, but when carefully parsed is revealed not to be a denial at all, and is thus not untruthful. It is a case in which words that are literally true are used to convey a false impression; analysis of whether or when such behavior constitutes lying is a long-standing issue in ethics. London's newspaper The Sunday Times has defined it as "an on-the-record statement, usually made by a politician, repudiating a journalist's story, but in such a way as to leave open the possibility that it is actually true."
Which raises the question of how many (APS or SRP) ratepayer dollars were used for this push poll. I don't have the answer. Really, likely nobody knows outside of TPA and whichever utilities funded the project.

But that's not stopping Checks and Balances Project director Scott Peterson from pushing back against the utilities. From the C&BP blog:
Today, the Checks and Balances Project sent a letter to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich asking that he investigate whether or not Arizona Public Service (APS) is connected with efforts by the Virginia-based Taxpayers Protection Alliance to conduct a door-to-door push poll designed solely to discredit the residential solar industry in Arizona.

If APS is connected, we ask that the Attorney General determine the extent to which APS has used ratepayer funds to underwrite this effort to protect its status as a highly profitable, incumbent monopoly. (emphasis in original) [...]
This takes place as Arizona Public Service Co. prepares a request for regulators that would increase monthly fees on solar companies, according to news reports.
From Peterson's letter to Brno,
I am writing to you after reading about a push poll disclosed by the Arizona Capitol Times on Friday, March 20, 2015. The article is titled, “Looking for Trouble in All the Solar Places” (see attached). It quotes the owner of the push poll group as acknowledging that the effort is really to discover negative experiences with residential solar.
Given your investigation into the claims of a staff whistleblower about conduct of at least two members of the Arizona Corporation Commission in a dark money scheme, I am writing to request that you:
  • Investigate whether or not Arizona Public Service (APS) is connected with efforts by the Virginia-based Taxpayers Protection Alliance to conduct this door-to-door push poll, designed solely to discredit the residential solar industry in Arizona.
  • If APS is connected, determine the extent to which APS has used ratepayer funds to underwrite this effort to protect its status as a highly profitable, incumbent monopoly.
  • Determine which specific executives at APS approved the funding for the push poll.
  • Provide an opinion on this as a proper use of APS ratepayers’ money without their consent.
Arizonans deserve to know whether or not APS hired the Taxpayers Protection Alliance directly or through the front group, American Encore. Formerly known as the Center to Protect Patient Rights, American Encore is run by Mr. Sean Noble who, during the 2013 net metering debate, APS acknowledged funneling money to in order to bolster APS’s position.
I appreciate that APS spent a large amount of money advocating for your candidacy for Arizona Attorney General. However, I trust your office will conduct a thorough and impartial investigation.
Thank you for considering my request. Please contact me if you have any questions.
There's something to be said for giving a person like Brnovich something to live up to. But I'm still skeptical that Brno can conduct an impartial investigation, given the hooks APS got into him in 2014.

Regardless, I'm confident that the bottom-line can be found in this situation, whether the Arizona Attorney General does the digging or someone else gets the honor.

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The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any. - Alice Walker
— Revolutionary Quotes (@QuoteRevolution) March 7, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Scrooge McDucey ♥♥♥ the REACTIONARY Arizona Legislature

From September 2013, Steve Sack, editorial cartoonist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:


This, of course, is a timely presentation to properly characterize the highly problematic FY2016 Arizona state government budget RAMMED down the throats of rank and file GOP state lawmakers recently in the middle of the night by Senate President Andy Biggshot (R-LD12/Gilbert/American Family Publishers' Sweepstakes).

Thirty-five years ago, Ronald Reagan sold America on this notion of incentives and justified it on the basis of claims that the rich, beneficiaries of government largess, would naturally invest the proceeds in creating good jobs for Main Street Americans.

We MUST be no longer deceived. There's more than three decades worth of data demonstrating that those claims are complete bullshit. The rich instead now sit on TRILLIONS of dollars in cash reserves stashed overseas (Switzerland, Cayman Islands, etc.) to avoid and evade paying their fair share of the cost to society for the infrastructure (and the labor of hundreds of millions of Americans) that they exploited to become rich.

Biggshot is the epitome of entitlement in Arizona. Put another way, his demeanor consistently says, "I got mine (in 1993), so F**K YOU!"

Unfortunately, the budget isn't the only thing the GOP-dominated AZ legislature is doing to FOCUS and direct HARM to everyone in our state other than the rich.

Case in point, this afternoon, SB1034, which already had been approved by the state senate, passed in the House of Representatives on a third read vote with only 10 NAY votes. Thankfully, both of my LD26 state reps voted NAY.

SB1034, when enacted, will direct the state's medicaid agency, to require ambulance providers to tattle on poor, sick people.
36-2903.09.  AHCCCS contractors; emergency department use; ambulance use
A.  A contractor shall intervene if a member inappropriately seeks care at a hospital emergency department four times or more in a six-month period to educate the member regarding the proper use of emergency services.

B.  Contractors shall report to the administration the number of times the contractor intervenes with members pursuant to this section in a manner prescribed by the administration.
Other than to intimidate elderly patients with chronic illnesses, what could this data possibly enable AHCCCS and state lawmakers to do?

Do you remember Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Florida) bluntly stating that the Republican health plan is to tell people to "die quickly?"

SB1034, sponsored by RWNJ Sen. Kelli Ward (R-Tea Party/LD5/Lake Havasu City), a PHYSICIAN no less, furthers that goal of killing off our senior citizens with chronic illnesses.

In explaining his vote, LD26 state Rep. Juan Mendez read from prepared remarks:
This bill is in search of an answer to a non-existent problem.
AHCCCS has tried to retrospectively assess the inappropriate use of the ER. In their recent report to the directors of the Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting and the Joint Legislative Budget Committee regarding Emergency Department Utilization. They found about 6% of ER visits were coded in what they thought showed a low level need for the ER.
Thus, we have no documented improper use of the hospital emergency rooms by AHCCCS members.
In addition, the problem with this bill is that under Medicaid, the standard of a reasonable visit to the ER is what a prudent layperson would think in regard to their health.
So if I have a history of heart conditions and I am experiencing chest pains, my visit to the ER falls within the prudent layperson standard even if there is nothing wrong with me.
We do not want people to stay away from the hospital and have a heart attack at home.
Simply looking at admittance codes does not apply the prudent layperson standard in the Medicaid regulations for when emergency room use is reasonable.
We need to stop patronizing the poor, this bill assumes poor make terrible choices and do so because they are inherently less capable.
I do not believe this and vote no.
In these remarks, Mendez must comply with legislative rules for politeness and decorum. Personally, I would have been somewhat more pointed in comments, if I were in his shoes. This is less about patronizing the poor and more about intimidation. But Mendez is squarely on the mark when he says, "We do not want people to stay away from the hospital and have a heart attack at home."

That is, unless you're one of the Greedy Ol' Pricks who determine public policy in Arizona.

Then we have Congressman Matt Salmon (R-Arizona's Fifth District/Gilbert), who yesterday declared that since cancer has touched loved ones of his, he (a self-described notoriously tight-fisted representative) is now willing to go to the wall to dramatically increase federal cancer research funding.
WASHINGTON -- Two minutes into a speech Tuesday morning, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) turned to the subject of his hair. He had shaved his head recently to honor the top official at the research department at the University of Arizona, who had died from pancreatic cancer. It was growing back.
There was poignancy to the gesture -- and a reason to mention it -- since Salmon was addressing a joint event by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and Stand Up To Cancer in the Cannon House Office building. After explaining his buzz cut and recounting how the disease had affected the lives of those he knew, loved and respected, Salmon made a plea.
"I'm kind of an unlikely candidate to be here today probably for a lot of reasons," he said. "I've been recognized by numerous groups as one of the most tight-fisted people in the entire Congress. ... That having been said, I believe with all my heart and soul that if the federal government doesn't lead the way on conquering cancer that it won't get done." [...]
Addressing legislation that the audience was there to advocate -- a $6 billion increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health over two years ($1 billion of which would go to the National Cancer Institute) -- Salmon insisted it was insufficient. The NIH, he explained, should see its budget grow to $40 billion by 2021 from roughly $30.1 billion, offset with cuts elsewhere. (emphasis added)
Now, can you guess from which federal programs Salmon will allow (advocate, or at least tolerate) those cuts coming? I bet it won't be the latest research on weapons of war. Which constituencies have the least power on Capitol Hill? Bully for Matt Salmon. I agree with him completely that federal funding for cancer research is crucial and worthy. But really, where's he going to find $10 billion to cut (offset) with his proposal?

It's that way in Washington DC and it's that way in Arizona.

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The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any. - Alice Walker
— Revolutionary Quotes (@QuoteRevolution) March 7, 2015

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

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Arizona Republic's brazen betrayal of its fundamental mission undermines open government

The Arizona Republic's editorial board let fly with fierce rebuke of Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva (Arizona's 3rd District) this morning, headlined "Drop the climate-change witch hunt."
The fervent wish of virtually all scientific researchers is that their work should do their talking for them.
Unfortunately, Arizona Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva won't let that happen.
The ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, Grijalva has demanded information from seven universities about the funding of climate scientists who testified to Congress.
As The Republic's Anne Ryman details, the scientists testified or wrote about climate change in ways that displeased environmental advocacy groups. Among them is Robert Balling, a professor at Arizona State University.
Grijalva sent a letter on Feb. 24 to ASU President Michael Crow seeking information on any external funding sources that underwrote Balling's work, as well as drafts of his testimony before government bodies and any correspondence about that testimony. Grijalva seeks records going back at least eight years.
Balling says he has complied fully with all disclosure requirements. He is hiding nothing. Grijalva's letter, which cites a 2012 news story that indicates he receives a $1,000 monthly honorarium from a group critical of widely accepted conclusions about climate change, is false, Balling said. 
Based on this build up, the Republic says Grijalva's on a "classic witch hunt."

Except that a $12,000/year tip jar seems to me that it would be enough grease to keep the wheel from squeaking.
Grijalva's pursuit of the seven scientists fits the classic definition of a witch hunt. He has no real information that suggests Balling or the others have hidden their funding sources. And he knows — or should know — that even a scurrilous allegation of being funded by energy industry sources can tarnish the most reputable researcher's reputation.
An interesting way to frame its conclusion, given that the editorial writer takes a verbal baseball bat to Grijalva based SOLELY on Balling's (unverified, unaudited, I'll take your word for it because it's convenient to my purpose) verbal denial. This ONLY for Grijalva's crime of having ASKED QUESTIONS. Questions that, for the ranking member of the Natural Resources committee seem entirely reasonable. Don't we expect our Congressional representatives to exercise genuine oversight on the issues within their purview?

Wikipedia says that Robert Balling "is known for" climate change skepticism. The 2012 news story was in Arizona State University's student run State Press. That story is notable for not conforming to corporate media efforts to suppress the truth. Ooops, I meant the Arizona Republic's brazenly sinister rhetoric designed to suppress the truth. The State Press story says, in part,
Environmental groups accused an ASU professor of having a conflict of interest that tainted his research and teaching after leaked documents in February revealed the professor’s connection to the spread of information questioning the use of fossil fuels as a cause of climate change.
Documents from the Heartland Institute named Robert Balling as a tentative author of “Climate Change Reconsidered” in its 2012 budget plan. Balling is a professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning whose research deals with climatology and global climate change. [...]
According to the Heartland Institute’s 2012 budget and fundraising strategy, Balling receives $1,000 per month from the organization.
Michelle Peirano, author of the State Press investigation, should be commended.

The Republic editorial concludes with this Fox News-style dagger,
[ASU President Michael] Crow also objected to Grijalva's pursuit of Balling, but indicated he planned to comply with the lawmaker's public-records request.
Frankly, we wish he would have been a little more forceful about it. Grijalva is doing no justice to the pursuit of truth by this fact-free endeavor. It needs to end.
To which I would say to Doug MacEachern and the Arizona Republic's publisher John Zidich, "HORSESHIT."

The State Press and Ms. Peirano did the kind of job the Arizona Republic SHOULD be doing. That Congressman Grijalva finally started following up on the information represents a too long delayed effort to spray some disinfectant (sunshine being the best disinfectant... according to former Supreme Court Justice Lewis Brandeis) on a putrid situation. Not to put too fine a point on it (because I did link to the 2014 blog post with Morgan Loew's investigation into lobbyist gifts to AZ lawmakers, aka legal corruption), but another ASU professor (emeritus), Robert Cialdini's social psychology research demonstrates with abundant clarity that Ballman's $12k/year tip jar receipts from the Heartland Institute constitutes a tangible conflict of interest. Whether Ballman disclosed it or not.

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To put the Republic's brazenly partisan attack on Grijalva in perspective, compare the softness of the news enterprise's rebuke of Scrooge McDucey today. Headline, "Come on governor, play it straight."
Subhead, "Our View: Doug Ducey has the potential to be a good leader, if he'd just stop spinning everything."
Education is important. So is thinking about it in fresh ways. A balanced budget is important. So is building the economy and recruiting new business to Arizona. Taken on the whole, Ducey was the better choice in November. He's still the better choice in March.
That doesn't mean he's been perfect. The disciplined messaging that served candidate Ducey so well does not translate well for Gov. Ducey. There's far too much spinning and clever wordplay, and not enough playing it straight. That will catch up to the governor, reducing his effectiveness when Arizonans constantly find themselves wondering what he's leaving unsaid.
More disingenuous bullshit. First, "disciplined messaging" is code for "we knew he was not telling the truth and we also knew he intended to decimate Arizona's public education system." However, because the Republic owns the results of the governor's race, they are downplaying the drastic hit the Arizona economy must brace itself to face.

The bottom line is that the Arizona Republic has betrayed the trust the public has every right to expect. In so doing, the corporate news organ which claims to be Arizona's "newspaper of record" has become nothing more than a propaganda tool.

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As an aside, McDucey's defunding of state universities (state Rep. Noel Campbell claims it's because the universities can find funding elsewhere) leaves Arizona's research schools open to capture by right wing funding from organizations like Koch Enterprises. This has largely already been accomplished. Last fall, when the LD26 legislative debate sponsored by the Citizens' Clean Elections Commission was held at the Tempe campus of ASU, I snapped a pic of a plaque in front of the W.P. Carey School of Business.

The text reads:
SPIRIT symbolizes the power of freedom in America. It is the combination of political and economic freedom that creates democratic capitalism which makes up the economic and cultural environment of America. This system combines an incentive-driven market economy, a strong legal framework that values individual property rights, a representative government that respects the rights of individuals to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and a system of cultural institutions moved by the principles of liberty and justice for all. These converging ideas provide Americans with unlimited possibilities for economic success and the freedom to voluntarily contribute to our society, thus creating more opportunities for succeeding generations.
The fact is that there is no such thing as "democratic capitalism." In fact, the two words are nearly antithetical. NOWHERE in the Constitution of the United States is the country defined as capitalist. Our ECONOMY is largely capitalist. Our political system is supposed to be a democratic republic. It is neither, at this point. America is, functionally, a plutocracy. The Arizona Republic threw a tantrum because Raul Grijalva is trying to fight for a democratic republic.

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The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any. - Alice Walker
— Revolutionary Quotes (@QuoteRevolution) March 7, 2015

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tell #ScroogeMcDucey to pay attention to this -- Genuine Tax Fairness

According to the Keystone Research Center's report, Tax Fairness: An answer to Arizona's Budget Problems:
In Arizona, income inequality is getting worse: the top one percent—those with incomes averaging $877,466 in 2012—now get nearly a fifth of all the state’s income. They also pay lower tax rates than everyone else—half the rate of the middle class. If the top one percent paid taxes at the same rate as middle‐income Arizonans, the state could solve many of its budget problems—raising $1.2 billion a year for education, infrastructure, health care, pensions and job creation. If the top fifth paid the same tax rate as the middle fifth, Arizona would have $2.74 billion more to meet state revenue needs. (emphasis mine)
I encourage you to check out the 4-page report. It graphically presents the issue (i.e., using charts and graphs) to foster an eye-opening awareness of the impact of the egregiously austere state government (and public education) budget rammed down the throats of everyday Arizonans last weekend.

Arizona's public education community -- from families with young children to students at our public universities; teachers and support staff and many more -- are acutely aware of the immediate ramifications of this budget. Those include widening economic apartheid IN Arizona as a result of dramatically increased public school class sizes. On the other hand, private schools will be able to maintain smaller classes to promote more individual attention for students.

I beseech you to force yourself to be aware of the fact that the lack of investment in our children will have far reaching ramifications -- the only Big Business/corporate employers that will come to or remain in Arizona are those which have no concern for the quality of life of their workforces. Small business demand will continue to languish because the average family's disposable/discretionary income -- the life blood of the Arizona economy -- will continue to shrink.

ProgressNowArizona executive director Robbie Sherwood issued the following press release this morning:
When Governor Doug Ducey and Republican leaders in the Legislature rammed through a state budget that devastates Arizona’s higher education, hamstrings our already underfunded public schools and pulls the safety net out from under thousands of struggling Arizona families, they argued they had no choice. With Arizona’s lagging revenue growth, they said their hands were tied and they had no other options. That is not true. 
Please read, consider and share this new report from Keystone Research Center and Good Jobs First that clearly shows Arizona’s inequitable tax system is creating an artificial downward pressure on revenues, giving Gov. Ducey and his supporters a convenient excuse to slash state support for education, healthcare and social services. Here’s the truth: If Arizona’s wealthiest 1 percent paid anywhere near the same tax rates as its middle class, Arizona’s structural deficit would disappear and then some. It’s time for a serious discussion (most likely with voters since lawmakers lack the courage) about new revenues to protect our greatest economic engine – our education system – and our safety net.
Press release and links to the research are below.
Robbie Sherwood
Executive Director, ProgressNow Arizona
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 11, 2015
CONTACT: Emma Stieglitz, emmaS@berlinrosen.com, (646) 200-5307
NATIONAL AND ARIZONA REPORT ONLINE AT www.keystoneresearch.org/taxfairness

Report: Inequitable Tax Code Costs Arizonans up to $2.74 Billion
Taxing Top Incomes at the Same Rate as the Middle Class Could Fund Critical State Priorities, Restoring Cuts to Higher Education and Paying Down Pension Debt

PHOENIX – Following the passage of a state budget that makes a 14 percent cut to higher education, a five percent cut to health care providers, and zeroes out funding for child abuse and neglect programs, a new report today shows that the state could generate up to $2.74 billion in revenue by fixing inequities in the state tax code. 
Arizona’s highest-income one percent pay a significantly lower percentage of their income in state and local taxes than those in the middle of the income distribution—4.6 percent vs. 9.2 percent, respectively. The report, Tax Fairness: An Answer to Arizona’s Budget Problems, released by the Keystone Research Center and Good Jobs First, finds that if Arizona taxed the top one percent of taxpayers at the same rate as the middle 20 percent, the state could raise $1.2 billion per year. Similarly, if the top 20 percent of income earners paid a fair tax, Arizona would generate $2.74 billion per year.
“Revenue lost because of the one-two punch of rising inequality and regressive state tax codes has led states to impose years of unnecessary austerity—underfunding schools, cutting investments in higher education, and deferring maintenance of our aging infrastructure,” said Keystone Research Center economist Stephen Herzenberg. “After 30 years of a middle-class squeeze, it’s time to restore balance.”
In the 1970s, the top one percent of taxpayers received about one of every 10 dollars of income in Arizona. By 2012, their share of Arizona’s total income had roughly doubled—to nearly two in every 10 dollars. This shift means that, every year, $29 billion in income now goes to just one percent of Arizonans. For context: $29 billion is more than three times the Arizona state general fund budget and 60 times the annual cost of paying down the state’s pension debt.
There are many ways that Arizona could embrace tax fairness. For example, it could emulate other states by establishing a progressive income tax, or it could make all of capital gains income taxable. 
Taxing upper income groups at the same overall tax rate as middle-class Arizona would relieve enormous pressure on the state’s budget. Just the revenue from tax fairness on the top one percent would more than fill Arizona’s budget hole (which could grow to $1 billion by FY 2016). Revenue from tax fairness on the top fifth could fill the budget hole, pay off pension debt, restore funding cut from higher education since 2007-08 and still leave a third of the $2.74 billion in additional revenue for other education investment, job creation, or infrastructure.
“The legislature has made harrowing cuts to education, health care, and other vital programs while moving forward on expensive tax cuts to corporations,” said Robbie Sherwood, Executive Director of ProgressNow Arizona. “Lawmakers face an ongoing choice – find new revenue, or spend the next few years devastating our schools and communities.”
The loss of revenue because top income groups pay low tax rates is not unique to Arizona. Nationally, the top one percent pays 5.4 percent of their income in taxes while the middle fifth pays 9.4 percent. Applying tax fairness to the one percent would generate $68 billion nationally, while taxing the top 20 percent at the same rate as the middle class would generate $128 billion.
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The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any. - Alice Walker
— Revolutionary Quotes (@QuoteRevolution) March 7, 2015

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

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Is it time to begin organizing a #RecallScroogeMcDucey campaign?

Unless I'm miscalculating or wrongly understanding Arizona Revised Statutes § 19-202, as of today we have 120 days to go before a recall of the new governor of our state can officially begin.

The last couple of weeks, after citizen protests began at the Capitol, Arizonans have begun to grasp the tangible ramifications of electing Scrooge McDucey and are becoming outraged.

To consider the feasibility of a recall movement, first evaluate the bottom line facts. From Friday's post,
That 25 percent threshold, according to the official canvass of the 2014 general election is (1,506,315 X .25) = 376,579 valid signatures. So, if for every person (man, woman, child) that showed up yesterday, they (or somebody) collected at least 400 valid signatures each, we would get the governor back on the ballot well before 2018. That's not an impossible goal. Difficult for sure, but not impossible.
From the Arizona Secretary of State's website, the current voter registration numbers for Arizona as a whole:

  • Total 3,247,175 
  • Americans Elect Party 461
  • Democrats 933,883
  • Green 5,051
  • Libertarian 27,706
  • Republican 1,113,991
  • Other/Independent 1,167,083
The total number of voters who cast ballots in November 2014 equaled 1,537,671 (47.52 percent).

Consider the scale of the effort it would take to collect more than 400,000 signatures. Typically, at least a 20 percent margin of error (cushion above the 376,579 valid signature requirement) can be reasonably expected. That puts the target at 450,000 signatures that should be collected.

To fund the logistics necessary to accomplish that goal, I would think at least a couple of millions of dollars must be raised.

In the wake of the abusive budget process, I'm confident there are plenty of citizens ready to jump in and try to make it happen. I don't know how many of those have sketched out what it will take to succeed.

If McDucey pivots and moderates his first year budget cutting agenda, that could take the edge off of the collective energy that is now building. If he does not, then it becomes a matter of organizing the people and the resources to make it happen.

Expect that since the course McDucey's on is desired by the Koch Empire, he will be able to raise substantial funds to save his ass (and his elected office). 

The first thing opponents of a recall will try to do is infiltrate whatever committee might form for the recall and cause confusion and division. This much is a given. It's not a maybe. Oh, and don't expect McDucey to be intimidated by this.

Now, with all of this in mind, let's see what happens over the next month or so.