Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

WHY was Leah Landrum Taylor ousted as Senate Minority Leader?

Tuesday's big story was the surprising ouster of Leah Landrum Taylor from her position as Minority Leader of the Arizona Senate. The Arizona Capitol Times picks up the story,
In a dramatic turn of events, Senate Minority Leader Landrum Taylor was ousted as minority leader by her party-mates following a closed-door meeting in the Senate today.
Sen. Anna Tovar, D-Phoenix, was elected as the new leader of the Senate’s Democratic caucus.
Senators cast private votes, 8-5, to remove Landrum Taylor and promote Tovar, who served as the minority whip during the 2013 legislative session.
Landrum Taylor and Sens. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, David Bradley, D-Tucson, Olivia Cajero-Bedford, D-Tucson, and Barbara McGuire, D-Kearny stormed out of the caucus room immediately following the vote...
Landrum Taylor was dumbfounded and furious about her ousting, telling the Arizona Capitol Times that the vote was “the most blatant, racist, disrespectful move I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Landrum Taylor said there is no valid reason to remove her, since her leadership team had been effective in the last session.
“This is the most arrogant, inconsiderate group of individuals I have been a part of and I will never set foot in that caucus room again,” Landrum Taylor said.
The Democrats had met to elect a replacement for Lopez, D-Tucson, who had resigned her leadership post to focus on a new job in Tucson.
But Landrum Taylor said Gallardo opened up the floor to elect a new leader and nominated Tovar to the position.
Additionally, the Capitol Times talked with Lopez who also played up claims of racism and sexism. Besides the fact that nearly the entire story was strangely set with one sentence paragraphs, one has to reflect on whether Landrum Taylor was the best person to determine whether there was "no valid reason to remove her."


Might it not have been a good idea to ask those who voted to replace her what they were thinking? I find it completely implausible that this action was taken for absolutely no reason. Furthermore, given the lashing out at her colleagues -- calling them the most arrogant, inconsiderate group of individuals I have been a part of -- anyone who has ever studied group dynamics at all would see that as an immediate RED FLAG and indicative of HER so-called leadership of that group.

Do you think that if she had held them in higher regard in the first place, they would have even considered removing her from leadership?

The Arizona Republic's Alia Beard Rau reported,
Landrum Taylor, who is running for secretary of state next year, appeared stunned by developments and said she was furious with the decision.
“They said I could not possibly run for state office and serve as the leader in the Legislature,” she said, adding that prior male leaders have done just that numerous times. “It’s disgusting and degrading.”
Landrum Taylor also alluded to possible racial motivations, saying some had alleged that she represents too small a percentage of Arizona voters. Landrum Taylor is the state’s only African-American state lawmaker. Tovar is a Latina.
At least Rau had the sense to not simply transcribe every last bit of Landrum Taylor's verbal tirade.

The New Times, however, threw gasoline on racial fires that have been burning for years between Hispanic and Black leaders in Phoenix. It posted a photo of Landrum Taylor speaking at a campaign rally for Phoenix City Council candidate Warren Stewart, at the top of the story.
A move by Arizona's Democratic senators that booted Senator Leah Landrum Taylor from her post as the Senate minority leader on Tuesday has infuriated leaders of the Black community.

The decision is causing further strain on the relationship between Black and Latino leaders in Phoenix.

About 25 Black leaders had gathered on the steps of the Calvin C. Goode Municipal building to rally African Americans to vote on November 5 -- and to support Pastor Warren Stewart, the only Black candidate in the District 8 race.

Stewart's political loss would mean the Black community would not have a representative on the Phoenix City Council. With that weighing on their minds, leaders then learned about Landrum Taylor's fate.

After the press conference, several leaders fumed in heated conversations about Landrum Taylor -- the state's highest and only Black representative -- being removed.
Are not journalists are supposed to ask -- Who, What, When, Where, How and Why? In politics, isn't the underlying cause -- the WHY -- often the most important thing readers need to know? 

A source familiar with the situation told me this evening that Landrum Taylor knew, for weeks, that this was coming. It also appears Landrum Taylor was given the opportunity to save face and mutually agree to a leadership change ostensibly to allow her to run a more focused campaign for Secretary of State.

It doesn't appear she was interested at all in taking her colleagues up on such an offer.

According to the New Times story, Black leaders are demanding the Arizona Democratic Party tell the Senate Democratic Caucus to apologize to Landrum Taylor.

Exactly who is supposed to be accountable to whom in this situation, anyway?

Going back to issues discussed and deliberated on during the redistricting process, I'd be asking whether just having a presence in the legislature is what Black leaders want, or do they actually want to have a say in determining public policy in Arizona?

And frankly, given the lack of composure demonstrated by Leah Landrum Taylor in this episode, I would say she has made it clear she is NOT a good candidate to become the top election officer in our state.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hashtag #StopHB2305 -- Signatures have all been checked!

A source close to the Protect Your Right to Vote committee, which spearheaded the coalition to collect referendum petition signatures in the heat of the Arizona summer, has told the Arizona Eagletarian that all counties have reported the result of the signature validation process. The committee expects that Secretary of State Ken Bennett will tomorrow (Tuesday) certify the referendum for the November 2014 general election ballot with an unprecedented 80 percent valid signature rate.

Barrett Marson, mouthpiece for the opposition, last I heard had been practicing his roar in hopes of scaring somebody. I'm not quite sure who he expected to get to stop like a dear in the headlights, but even in the (far) outside chance he can get a court to hear a challenge to the petitions, such an endeavor will be the ultimate Quixotic quest.

The GOP may think they will ultimately emerge victorious in the challenge to the Lobbyist Shakedown Bill, because the current composition of the US Supreme Court favors removing limits in campaign finance laws. But there is ZERO chance any court will take the side of striking down the right of VOTERS to make a decision like this one -- a People's VETO of the Voter Suppression Bill, HB2305.

Hear that Marson? ZERO chance.

Does the Arizona Republic FACT CHECK letters, which claim to be factual, before publishing?

On Saturday evening, October 26, the Arizona Republic posted the following letter on it's opinion page.
The facts on ‘Obamacare’ are dismal
“Obamacare” may be the law of the land, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Here are facts as it relates to my wife and me: I pay $363 a month for my insurance. My wife is covered at the school where she works. They are cutting her hours next year so they won’t have to carry her on their insurance. Only full-time teachers and office workers will be covered. This is happening everywhere.
My insurance company sent me a letter saying that next year my premiums are going to skyrocket. Why? Under Obamacare, the company will have to cover all applicants with pre-existing conditions, and everybody will share in the cost.
Just for kicks, we checked into Obamacare: Our premium would be $1,199 a month. So much for affordable. That’s twice what we pay now. And that is the cheapest plan. We still would have to pay 40 percent out of pocket. Those are the facts, people.
Bucky Buckner, Chandler
Key points to consider:
  • The Republic is responsible for what it publishes. 
  • Letter writers do NOT normally write their own headlines, so the Republic is responsible for using the word "facts" in the headline, and for the characterization of the alleged facts as "dismal."
  • Mr. Buckner makes a series of claims of fact. Before publication, Bucky is the only one responsible for whether the claims are true, accurate and fair characterization of the situation.
  • Claim of fact: "My insurance company sent me a letter..."
  • Mr. Buckner clearly stated that "Just for kicks, we checked into Obamacare..."
  • Another claim of fact: "our premium would be $1,199 a month."
  • Another claim of fact: "that's twice what we pay now. And that is the cheapest plan. We still would have had to pay 40 percent out of pocket."
  • Mr. Buckner closes with, "Those are the facts, people."

My question to the Arizona Republic and it's Opinion Page editor, Robert Leger is, did you FACT CHECK these claims before publishing them?

Does the Arizona Republic instead have a policy of disclaiming the accuracy of what its letter writers say? If so, that would be a tacit admission they -- knowingly or not -- publish propaganda.

If the Republic does NOT have a policy of disclaiming the accuracy of statements it publishes in it's letters and op-eds, then it holds even more responsibility for what is most definitely in this case propaganda.

The most obvious clue to the dubious nature of Mr. Buckner's claims is his declaration of intent, "Just for kicks..." If Mr. Buckner actually intended to find the best deal for his family, do you really think he would be doing it "just for kicks?" On the other hand, if he had a preconceived notion that Obamacare was not going to be a good deal for him, how diligent would he search to find the best deal possible?

Secondly, Bucky claims that his wife's employer is going to, at some point in the future, cut her hours so that they do not have to carry her health care coverage. He did not, however, mention the subsidy he will receive under the ACA to help pay those premiums. By the way, since Bucky claims some of these "facts" are set forth in a letter he received from his insurance company, did Mr. Leger ask to see that letter, to verify those facts?

What might the intent be for the Arizona Republic to publish something so obviously suspect? I suppose there are several possibilities. But it is very clear that traditional news publishing enterprises are stumbling dramatically to cope with severely disruptive technological innovations. It's not much of a stretch to infer that they publish what they believe readers want to read, in hope that they will keep those readers paying subscription fees -- and print advertisers paying for print ads -- as long as possible.

This kind of sloppy editing reflects desperation, regardless of the actual intent.

-----

Last night, I learned about another situation in which social media made THE difference.
By now nearly 4 million people* have watched the 'United Breaks Guitars' video that has made its way around the web and back. A quick catch-up: United Airlines passenger Dave Carroll had his Taylor guitar destroyed by the airline's baggage handlers during a flight last year. After United repeatedly declined to reimburse him for the damage, he wrote a now-famous song decrying their customer service and their brand. It was funny, justified and smart.
The damage to United's brand was undeniable. But perhaps the craziest claim to come surface during the entire United Breaks Guitars episode comes from Chris Ayres of The Times Online in the U.K. In a column earlier this week, Ayres claimed the Carroll mishap actually cost United $180 million, or 10 percent of its market cap...

Knowledge is power. -- Francis Bacon
Please exercise the power you have in this situation. Corporate media may think it is invincible. We know differently.

Call and email the Arizona Republic about this situation. It matters and they will notice. 

Tell executive management you will not tolerate such sloppy journalism. This will matter for the 2014 election season, and beyond.

Mr. Leger can be reached by email. His work phone number is listed as (602) 444-8138. 

Randy Lovely is listed as Editor and Vice President for News (as opposed to advertising or circulation) and can be reached at (602) 444-8790.

Most importantly, make your voice heard. Let the Arizona Republic know you will NOT TOLERATE them either intentionally or recklessly deceiving their readers like this.

-----

*NOTE: at this time, the United Breaks Guitars video on YouTube registers 13,550,306 views. In a reflection of the populist nature of social media, the video has been given 70,755 thumbs up and only 1,413 thumbs down. Contrast those numbers to the facts in the HOT COFFEE movie about Stella Liebeck's burns and the myth of frivolous lawsuits. Because of the propaganda fed the masses by corporate media, people generally, up until now, have believed in that myth.  
Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.  Teddy Roosevelt 
YOU have the power of change in your voice.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Redistricting -- October 24th meeting recap

On Thursday afternoon, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission met, primarily to decide what to do about its rapidly dwindling funding (if you wish to view the 75 minute recording, you may do so at the link provided).

Commission staff presented budget status information indicating that if everything goes favorably, currently available funding, net of staff and other operating costs (rent/utilities, etc) could last into December.

In a 3-2 vote, the commission approved a Rick Stertz motion worded like this (paraphrasing):
We do not now authorize counsel to prepare for a special action to sue the legislature, pending a significant event at which time we would make special request of the legislature and governor's office to recognize their constitutional requirement to fund the AIRC to carry out its mission to defend its maps.
In discussion of the motion, prior to the vote, Commissioner Scott Freeman suggested, but did not actually say the motion was unnecessary. He also indicated they should plan now to meet in December to reassess the situation and decide at that time what action they should take. McNulty, speaking more specifically, said that having been a Girl Scout, she understands the value in being prepared. Therefore she believes that motion was not a good idea. Freeman and new Commissioner Cid Kallen voted with Stertz to approve the motion.

Now, what exactly is a "significant event?" Apparently, something that will cause them to spend available funding more quickly. Attorney Joe Kanefield listed a few such possibilities when he gave a status report on the three lawsuits currently pending. They are:

  • Harris v AIRC -- federal trial was completed in March. A decision, which could require reworking the legislative district map, could come down any day.
  • Leach v AIRC -- trial in Maricopa County Superior Court, currently in discovery phase
  • Arizona Legislature v AIRC -- challenging the constitutionality of AIRC drawn Congressional district maps entirely, trial in federal court, dates not scheduled. 
Among discussion, commissioners wondered aloud whether any of the plaintiffs (especially the Legislature) would be willing to delay proceedings to accommodate waiting for a supplemental appropriation to be made. The soonest, barring the legislature convening in a special session, is sometime in mid-January. The answer to that question, for any of the plaintiffs is likely something to the effect of, "hahahahaha!"

Especially since the legislature apparently has filed briefs requesting an injunction to prevent the current Congressional district map from being used for the 2014 election. 

Commissioner Kallen noted that if a significant event occurs, they can call a meeting and make a decision at that time on what to do.

The tone of the discussion by and from the five commissioners was essentially to rollover for the legislature. What they did not consider however, at least not by anything articulated in open session, was how vulnerable this might make the IRC. Oh, McNulty emphatically indicated the need to keep the door open to move quickly in the event of such a significant event. But nobody really discussed any possible scenarios.

To me, this potentially sets up a significant vulnerability. Rather than keeping the door open for legal counsel to prepare after such an event, counsel potentially has its hands tied until the next meeting is called.

And while Commissioners Freeman and Stertz both said things on Thursday to indicate they are on board for having the IRC vigorously defend the current maps, the totality of their words and actions up to this point suggest otherwise. Specifically, Stertz pleaded with Judge Mark Brain to be allowed to remain as a named defendant in the Leach case, apparently to better undermine the Congressional map. Stertz has specified on multiple occasions that he believes the current maps are not to his liking and that counsel defending those maps has acted contrary to HIS interests.

Further complicating this vulnerability, or not, perhaps, is that when Freeman talked about planning to meet again in December, he noted that he would be away for an entire week on a hunting trip right after Thanksgiving. Depending on what kind of significant event might develop, that might work either to Freeman's benefit or detriment in having a vote in a key decision.

-----

At the beginning of Thursday's meeting, the IRC discussed the break-in that occurred at its office on the weekend of September 13-16. Highlights of the 14-page police report, include the names of three investigative leads, a list of missing items, a list of evidence collected at the scene and the investigating officer's narrative description of the crime and investigation.

Commission staff had requested someone from the Dept. of Public Safety (investigating agency) give a briefing on the situation during the public portion of Thursday's meeting. DPS declined because they cannot comment publicly on ongoing investigations. Commission chair Colleen Mathis mentioned that she had been briefed and found the situation troubling. Stertz tried to get her to disclose specifically what from the briefing she found troubling. 

Stertz seemed particularly hostile toward staff when asking questions about the burglary. However, at one point, he indicated his concern was for staff safety. Executive Director Ray Bladine described how the unknown suspect(s) gained entrance and what has been done ensure the alarm system functions properly and that the offices are kept secured from now on.

-----

The Yellow Sheet contained a blurb about the meeting, but I haven't seen anything reported by the Arizona Republic or any of the news sites for which Howie Fischer writes. 

Having listened to the entire public meeting, I can say my impression is YS hopes to stir some controversy. But then again, when has (only) a little controversy ever hurt anyone. 

TO SUE OR NOT IS TRULY THE QUESTION The IRC voted 3-2 yesterday on a motion by GOP Commissioner Rick Stertz to instruct its attorneys not to begin work on a possible lawsuit to force lawmakers to provide funding to the IRC unless circumstances – such as a redrawing of maps or increased activity in the pending lawsuits – compel the commission to expend its remaining resources more quickly than expected. That the motion was approved caught some by surprise. While former Commissioner Jose Herrera usually voted with fellow Dem Commissioner Linda McNulty and independent Chairwoman Colleen Mathis, and often fought with his Republican colleagues, Herrera’s replacement, Cid Kallen, joined with the Republicans to pass Stertz’s motion. “My perception as to what was transpiring on the other end of the phone lines was there was surprise on the other side,” said GOP Commissioner Scott Freeman, the only IRC member who didn’t attend via a teleconference. McNulty maintained that she wasn’t surprised, telling our reporter she voted against Stertz’s proposal because the commission should be prepared for a lawsuit, though she doesn’t think any legal action is needed now. “As I said in the hearing, I think you always need to be prepared,” she said. McNulty added that the motion was unnecessary, since the IRC’s attorneys can’t take any legal action without commission authorization anyway. During the meeting, IRC Executive Director Ray Bladine questioned whether the commission’s funding would last until January, and said there’s no guarantee that the Legislature will immediately address the IRC’s funding needs in the 2014 session. If the funding issue isn’t addressed quickly, the IRC might not have enough money to keep its office open or to even send Bladine to the Legislature to request the funding, warned Deputy Executive Director Kristina Gomez. “If we don’t have money, then we have to close down [the] shop,” Gomez said. But Bladine told our reporter today that the IRC’s funds should keep it afloat until the Legislature reconvenes next year – unless something unexpected happens with one of the outstanding lawsuits against the commission that compels the IRC to burn through its remaining cash.

I wouldn't necessarily read too much into Kallen's vote. His voice sounded like he was doing his best to figure out what would be a sound, balanced decision. But he's at a distinct disadvantage since he missed out on more than two and a half years worth of meetings and deliberations.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It's all but official: Arizona voters will have the last say on #HB2305

The Arizona Capitol Times reported this afternoon that the #HB2305 Voter Suppression Bill referendum has indeed gathered enough valid signatures to qualify for the 2014 general election ballot.  Hank Stephenson reported,
The referendum effort against HB2305, the law making sweeping changes to Arizona’s elections, has the necessary valid signatures to force a referendum election on the law during the 2014 election.
Though three counties are still validating signatures, the effort already has more than 100,000 signatures validated – well over the 86,405 necessary to force a referendum election.
According to figures provided by the secretary of state’s office, 5,242 signatures have been deemed valid by county recorders’ offices across the state. By law, that figure is multiplied by 20 – the signatures sent to county recorders were a random sample totaling 5 percent of the total – giving the referendum effort 104,840 valid signatures, far more than the 86,405 needed to put the law on hold until voters weigh in on the 2014 ballot.
Robbie Sherwood, spokesman for the Protect Your Right To Vote Committee, which spearheaded the effort, hadn’t heard the committee would make the ballot – barring any successful legal challenge – when he was contacted today.
“We want to wait until everything is in until we pat ourselves on the back, but I think it looks very good. The numbers show the very high quality of work, not just on the paid signature gatherers side, but on the volunteer side,” he said. [...]
But Barrett Marson, spokesman for the anti-referendum effort, said they still may bring a legal challenge against the referendum.
“There are still a lot of issues to be resolved. Obviously some of their signature gatherers have significant issues with residency and felonious conduct. So this is far from over,” he said.

Sherwood told the Arizona Eagletarian that Marson had named two alleged felons in a letter to Secretary of State Ken Bennett a couple of weeks ago. The Protect Your Right To Vote Committee spokesman said those two signature gatherers did not work for the committee.

The three counties that still need to complete the review of the sample signatures face a November 4th deadline to report their results.

Is Jeremy N Choate REALLY a beacon of rationality and logic?

Here's a link to Jeremy Choate's blog, posted in July 2012. Apparently, it's been making the rounds more recently on Facebook, among those who consider themselves staunch conservatives.

Choate calls his blog Sufficient Reason: Politics, religion and life from an uncomfortably logical and rational perspective. This particular post, he titles Dear Liberal... Here's Why I'm So Hostile.

It's a missive apparently designed to blow apart claims that Tea Party/GOP hostility toward President Obama and all things Liberal have anything to do with racism. Let's see if he succeeds.

Our first clue about whether the post is based on logic and rational reasoning or rather on emotion is the image Choate uses to set the tone. Here's Gerard Butler from the 2006 movie 300:



Don't get me wrong, it was a fine movie. But is this the way to headline something that claims to be a strictly logical and rational perspective?

His opening paragraph:
Lately, I must admit that my hostility towards your political ilk has ramped up, pretty dramatically.  No, it’s not because we, at this point in my life, have a half-black president in the White House, and I’m some closet racist who is becoming increasingly frustrated at the prospects of the White Man’s power slipping through my fingers.  I know that thought keeps you warm at night, but I can assure you that it is a comfortable fiction of which you should probably divest yourself.
Translated into plain English, here's what it appears Mr. Choate really means:
I'm mad as hell, getting madder, and it's your fault. I deny it's because President Obama is black. I deny that I'm a closet racist and deny that my anger is because I see "White Man's power slipping through my fingers." I want you to believe that my anger is completely logical and rational. So, I will point you to some shiny objects hoping that you will not discover the real cause of my fear.
That's why I put a label on this can of tuna that says it's actually peanut butter. 
Who, in their right mind, understands hostility to be the result of logic or rational thought?

Choate's next paragraph is a doozy. Think Orwell, because it is THAT bizarre. You know, UP is DOWN kind of thing.
Now before I waste too much of your time, let’s establish who I’m talking to. If you believe that we live in an evil, imperialist nation from its founding, and you believe that it should be “fundamentally transformed”, lend me your ears.  If you believe that the free market is the source of the vast majority of society’s ills and wish to have more government intervention into it, I’m talking to you.  If you believe that health care is a basic human right and that government should provide it to everyone, you’re the guy I’m screaming at.  If you think minorities cannot possibly survive in this inherently racist country without handouts and government mandated diversity quotas, you’re my guy.  If you believe that rich people are that way because they've exploited their workers and acquired wealth on the backs of the poor, keep reading.  Pretty much, if you trust government more than your fellow American, this post is for you.
The cutesy Mr. Choate claims he's talking to Liberals, not those who worship at the feet of Ronald "Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem" Reagan.

Who was it circulating this blog post? No, this wasn't written to Liberals. Choate clearly wanted to fire up Tea Party types to make them less inclined to listen to actual logic and rational reasoning. It tells his real audience what he wants them to believe about Liberals.

I know Liberals. I hold some Liberal ideas. But I understand there was plenty of good and plenty of bad about the United States from the very beginning. I also understand that the historical record shows America's roots firmly planted in Socialism. Thomas Paine -- the firebrand without whom there would never have been an American Revolution against Great Britain and King George -- wrote the blueprint for Social Security. He also advocated abolition of slavery and was very emphatically against the concept of theocracy.

Next, Choate says:
First of all, let me say that we probably agree on more things than you think. Even between Tea Party Patriots and Occupy Wall-Streeters, I've observed a common hatred of the insidious alliance between big business and big government. As Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) so correctly noted, government should never be in the business of picking winners and losers in corporate America, and no person, organization, union, or corporation should have their own key to the back door of our government.
The first sentence is possibly true, but he still is characterizing his ostensible audience as clueless on that notion. Doing so is neither logical nor rational. Further, he states it dismissively. More likely than not, more liberals understand the common ground than do his so-called Tea Party Patriots.

The observation about the insidious alliance between Big Business and Big Government is true as is noting it as common ground. But then he cites Paul Ryan who is not nearly the first person to have reflected on the notion that government should abstain from the business of picking winners and losers in corporate America. If Choate was genuinely interested in rational perspective on Ryan, he would have to acknowledge that Ryan has his hands deep in the pockets of Big Business just like 99 percent of the members of Congress.
Second, contrary to popular belief, conservatives really are concerned with the plight of the poor in this nation.  You accuse us of being uncompassionate, hateful, racist, and greedy, but studies have shown that when it comes to charitable giving, conservatives are at least (if not more, depending on the study you read) as generous as liberals in caring for the poor.  The difference between us is not in our attitude towards the problem — it’s our attitude towards the solution.  We believe that the government does practically nothing well (since without competition or a profit motive there is no incentive to do well) and has made the plight of the poor far worse than it would have ever been had government never gotten involved. [...]
There is no basis for this claim that conservatives are really concerned with the plight of the poor in this nation. Even more importantly, Choate provides NO basis for making this claim. How can he say it's logical or rational if he presents no basis for the claim?

He can claim that he -- himself -- is compassionate. But the proof is in the pudding. Rationally speaking, can his diatribe against Liberals be viewed as anything more than projecting?

By the way, I see NO links in Mr. Choate's blog post. Again, is it logical or rational to take, at face value, what he claims to be logical and rational without him providing support for his claims?

Next, Choate invokes Reagan's famous incantation against government and cites what he believes to be evidence that government is the problem, by reference to the "War on Poverty."

Wikipedia defines the War on Poverty as
... the unofficial name for legislation first introduced by United States President Lyndon B. Johnson during his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964. This legislation was proposed by Johnson in response to a national poverty rate of around nineteen percent. The speech led the United States Congress to pass the Economic Opportunity Act, which established the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to administer the local application of federal funds targeted against poverty.
As a part of the Great Society, Johnson believed in expanding the government's role in education and health care as poverty reduction strategies. These policies can also be seen as a continuation of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, which ran from 1933 to 1935, and the Four Freedoms of 1941.
There have been a number of programs passed by Congress and implemented by executive agencies of the federal government aimed at addressing conditions in and around those living in poverty. Choate fails to address any of those programs specifically. One of Lyndon Johnson's hallmark accomplishments was the inception of Medicare. I'd challenge Mr. Choate to take a scientific survey of those "Tea Party Patriots" and see how many of them are willing to give up Medicare or Social Security.

Anyone who wants to genuinely understand poverty in America then and now must become familiar with the writings and talks of former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich. His movie, Inequality for All, does a lot more to set forth a logical and rational perspective than Mr. Choate ever dreamed of being able.



Choate's next several paragraphs attack FDR's Second Bill of Rights. Why does he think it's necessary to attack them at all? Is FDR's thinking making a comeback?

During the 2008 presidential campaign, didn't John McCain say that he thought FDR was one of our great presidents? Anyway, Choate goes on:
You may be getting anxious, now, wondering what FDR’s Second Bill of Rights has to do with my antipathy towards your political philosophy.  It’s quite simple — your political beliefs are a threat to liberty — not just for me, but for my three boys and their children as well.  I care much less about the America that I’m living in at this very moment than I do about the one that I’m leaving Nathaniel, Charlie, and Jackson.
Now we're getting to the nitty gritty of the reason for Choate's post.

He says, "you may be getting anxious..." Did I miss it? When did Choate cite any survey or other research into how his ostensible audience was thinking? So, what could he have really meant by that declaration? Could it have been anything other than projecting his anxiety onto Liberals?

Choate then clearly sets forth that he holds "antipathy toward your political philosophy." Then we learn what could be the bottom line to that whole post, "It's quite simple -- your political beliefs are a threat to liberty." This is a statement of belief, not of fact.

What else could it be other than a very blatant declaration of Choate's own emotional state? Is he not freaking out about what he believes FDR's Second Bill of Rights means to him and his children?
How does your political bent threaten my and my sons personal liberty, you ask?  In your irrational attempt to classify things such as clothing, shelter, health care, employment, and income as basic human rights, you are placing a demand upon my time, my treasure, and my talents.  If you believe that you have a right to health care, and you are successful in persuading enough shallow thinkers to think as you do, then it will place a demand upon me to provide it to you.  If you believe that you have a right to a job, and more than half of America agrees with you, as a business owner, I am obligated to provide one to you, even if it means making my business less profitable.
Another clue to suggest Choate is pretty much projecting throughout this whole blog post is found in his expression, "In your irrational attempt..."

Do you know what fear is? Fear can be a good thing, in some situations. It can prevent a person from taking unreasonable and unnecessary risks. Gut level fear can tell us, in a nanosecond, to get out of the way of a falling piano or an oncoming bus. BUT, sometimes it's False Evidence Appearing Real.

FEAR based on false evidence is the very definition of irrational. One online self-help guru says this about it:
Healthy fear gets you out of the path of a speeding car, and checks in with the doctor about a strange lump. Unhealthy fear is F.E.A.R, false evidence that appears real but is mostly a fabrication of the reptilian brain and the ego that wants to keep you imprisoned in your own mind, unwilling to be fully alive because it’s too risky to venture out. Overcome this unhealthy fear, and you will wake up to an inner security that will put external threats in a new perspective.
In Choate's case, he very eloquently spelled out his fear. By the way, I know what irrational fear is. I haven't been on an airliner since 2000. Fortunately, I haven't needed to travel by air in the last 13 years. When the time comes, I'll try to confront that fear and overcome it.

Anyway, Choate did not fairly or accurately describe the reality of what Liberal public policy, when implemented, means to him. He described a scenario developed in his own mind, maybe with the help of some of his friends and advisors. Wink, wink.

However, this takes me back a couple of decades. Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was first published in 1989. I chose to let Covey (a Mormon, by the way) be one of my advisors, figuratively speaking.

First, let me say that Choate's blog post reflects a very strong scarcity mindset.
This scarcity mindset can also be debilitating. It shortens a person’s horizons and narrows his perspective, creating a dangerous tunnel vision. Anxiety also saps brainpower and willpower, reducing mental “bandwidth”, as the authors call it.
Covey, on the other hand, said highly effective people maintain an abundance mindset.
Covey coined the idea of abundance mentality or abundance mindset, a concept in which a person believes there are enough resources and successes to share with others. He contrasts it with the scarcity mindset (i.e., destructive and unnecessary competition), which is founded on the idea that, if someone else wins or is successful in a situation, that means you lose; not considering the possibility of all parties winning (in some way or another) in a given situation (see zero-sum game). Individuals with an abundance mentality reject the notion of zero-sum games and are able to celebrate the success of others rather than feel threatened by it.
Since this book's publishing, a number of books appearing in the business press have discussed the idea. Covey contends that the abundance mentality arises from having a high self-worth and security (see Habits 1, 2, and 3), and leads to the sharing of profits, recognition and responsibility. Organizations may also apply an abundance mentality when doing business.
So, Choate failed to accomplish, with that blog post, his stated goal of setting forth a logical, rational perspective that would be uncomfortable for Liberals. He succeeded in revealing his irrational fear and scarcity mindset. He also showed that his fear has nothing to do with the color of President Obama's skin.

It's not up to me to treat Mr. Choate's anxiety. But I most assuredly do not have to let him get away with imposing his fear on everyone else. And neither do you. So, if you know someone who has bought into Choate's zero-sum mindset and believes that egalitarian society means he or she loses, send them here. Maybe, if they are open to it, they will see the light.

Oh, and since Mr. Choate challenges his Liberal readers to "bring it," at the end of his post, everyone is welcome to point him to this blog and even more importantly to people who can help him deal with the mental prison he has put himself in. Stephen Covey's book would be a very good first step in that direction.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Remember the AstroTurf, er... Alamo! UPDATED 10-22-13 12:45pm MST

Once upon a time in the desert there was Nathan Sproul, founder and managing partner of Lincoln Strategies Group.

In the summer of 2011, there was a prolonged firestorm of controversy surrounding the start of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission mapping process, beginning with the selection of legal and mapping consultants. In August that year, I posted:
Nathan Sproul is a well known Arizona GOP operative who has been linked to voter fraud... His characterization of the current situation with the AIRC is fraught with exaggeration, obviously intended to scare the hell out of any god-fearing Christian Republican in Arizona.

"If this commission successfully implements its hyper-partisan agenda, there is a distinct possibility that Arizona will only send 3 Republicans to Congress and the Democrats will send 6. Additionally, the strong majorities enjoyed by Republicans in the Legislature will surely evaporate. 
"If Arizona becoming California without the beach is o.k. to you, don’t pay attention to the AIRC. But, if California isn’t your idea of prosperity, pay attention and make your voice heard."
In the same blog post, I speculated that perhaps local Republican PR guru Jason Rose was behind the obvious astroturf campaign that badgered the AIRC that summer. The campaign and the badgering continued into 2012 (when the maps were completed and sent off to DOJ for preclearance).
The UNfair Trust, by fronting two attorneys to speak on its behalf, signaled its readiness to engage in a litigious battle. Introduce Jason Rose with Nathan Sproul, and you have a better idea of the kind of street fight the next couple of months could see.
Of course, after the public hearings, the GOP focused the effort on litigation, filing three lawsuits to continue badgering the AIRC, primarily in court.

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Cut to October 2013.

The Arizona Republic runs this story about Sproul's sinister plot to usurp the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Representatives of one of the state’s top consulting firms pitched a plan to Arizona Public Service Co. four years ago outlining how the utility could work behind the scenes to alter a commission established by the state Constitution to regulate it.
The plan proposed that APS fund a $4.3 million campaign using out-of-state non-profit groups to generate “fake controversies” regarding the Arizona Corporation Commission. Those controversies could sway voters and lead them to elect new regulators, the plan suggested, or could influence legislators to add additional seats on the commission. (emphasis mine)
The plan, titled “The Institute for Energy Policy,” was drafted by Lincoln Strategy Group, a Tempe-based political-consulting firm. It was presented to the utility’s chief executive soon after a contentious APS rate-increase case was settled by the commission, which regulates rates for most of the state’s utilities.
APS officials said the utility did not solicit the 20-page plan, which was obtained recently by The Arizona Republic. A company official called it “absurd.” Don Brandt, company chief executive, said he “immediately dismissed” the proposal in 2009.
After the report was presented, however, APS hired one of the two Lincoln Strategy employees who pitched the report to Brandt. She now serves as the utility’s top lobbyist. The other executive who pitched the report also left Lincoln Strategy and is being paid by APS as an outside consultant. 
Of course APS is going to deny they solicited the plan. BUT...
In 2009, Jessica Pacheco was working for Lincoln Strategy. She had been an APS employee from 1997 to 2006, when she left to become the lobbyist for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She joined Lincoln Strategy in 2007 and then was rehired by APS in 2009. [...]
Nathan Sproul, owner of Lincoln Strategy, said Pacheco and Murray came up with a proposal “at the request of APS” but that his company never implemented a plan.
Sproul would not comment further about the plan, citing client confidentiality.
He said he is not working for any company involved in the current APS solar debate. Sproul, a longtime Republican operative, has been involved in voter-registration controversies in several states. [...]
Not long after Brandt said he rejected the plan, Pacheco was rehired by APS and now is the utility’s head lobbyist. Murray, now a partner with Summit Consulting Group Inc., works as an APS contractor. [...]
The Plan 
The plan to change the Corporation Commission involved a three-year strategy and APS money funneled through non-profits with no apparent ties to the utility.
It called for creating two non-profit groups that would direct APS donations to generate research that would show the Corporation Commission’s decisions cost ratepayers money and hurt families. The plan called for making the non-profits appear as a grass-roots efforts rather than as well-funded operations directed by industry insiders with clear corporate goals. (emphasis mine)
According to the plan, the key non-profit would be the report’s namesake, the Institute for Energy Policy, which would have a national office in Washington, D.C., and chapters in various states and position itself as “a legitimate public-policy organization.”
The institute was supposed to conduct research activities to push public-policy objectives and “lobby members of Congress.”
The plan suggested the institute also involve itself in political issues in other states, which would obscure that it would be funded by APS to target an Arizona cause.
The plan said eliminating the five-member Corporation Commission would be difficult, as the panel was established by the state Constitution. The plan suggested pushing for voters either to add appointed members to the board or to make the state Legislature the final authority on utility rates.
“Arizona will have a budget to conduct survey research to begin developing solid messaging with the end goal of changing the selection process for the Arizona Corporation Commission,” the report stated.
Tweek that plan with only minor adjustments and you have the blueprint for UNfair Trust.

Do you believe in coincidence?

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Remember Network and Howard Beal?


You don't have to be a meek follower hoping only to be left alone.

While many people caught up in the Tea Party movement are earnest and well-meaning, evidence abounds that said movement is nothing more than a drummed up series of controversies, engineered by the likes of the Koch brothers.

It's time YOU Rise UP! I am. Many of my friends in Arizona are too.

It's time we all emulate what AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said today.
"No politician … I don’t care the political party … will get away with cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits. Don’t try it," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, according to prepared remarks for a speech in Las Vegas, Nev.
It's time to put a stop to the entire Koch brothers agenda.

-----

UPDATE

More than one person has sent me a link to this related Mother Jones story:
Power Company Comes Clean: We Bankrolled Arizona's Anti-Solar Blitz
In recent months, sunny Arizona has been the scene of a shady dark money-fueled battle pitting Arizona's largest electricity utility against the burgeoning solar power industry. Over the weekend, the fight took an interesting turn: The utility, the Arizona Public Service Company (APS), outed itself as a funder of two secretive nonprofits fueling the anti-solar fight—and revealed that it had funneled its anti-solar money through a political operative associated with the Koch brothers and their donor network.
Follow that? Some backstory might help. (continued at the Mother Jones link above)

Redistricting: The well is running dry!

On Friday, besides filing a brief in federal court, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission sent a series of documents to the press detailing its current financial situation.

Recall that last month, I mentioned this would be coming down the pike.




Here's part of what AIRC staff wrote, it's four page memo to the five commissioners about the subject this time.
Without an additional legislative appropriation, the Commission is in jeopardy as to compliance with the Arizona State Constitution which requires the Commission to defend the adopted maps.
The Arizona State Constitution requires the Legislature to provide adequate funding for the Commission, and clearly this is not the current situation. Also, it is not possible for the Commission to completely comply with A.R.S. § 35-131 D requiring a plan to stay within the current appropriation. Only the Arizona State Legislature can act in a way that would provide compliance with the Arizona Constitution and Arizona Revised Statutes.   
Possible Commission Alternatives
1) Notify Commission attorneys to stop work. This jeopardizes the Commission’s ability to comply with the Arizona State Constitution’s requirement for it to defend the maps. Currently, this is the action that has been taken. This “Lock Down” approach will only be successful for a few months, and if no new demands are made on legal counsel.
2) Request authority of the courts’ to suspend action on the two active cases, Leach v. AIRC, and Arizona State Legislature v. AIRC. The Harris v. AIRC case is awaiting a court decision.
3) File a special action with the Arizona Supreme Court, seeking a constitutional appropriation, since the Legislature has not provided adequate funding.
4) File some other legal action(s) to seek a court solution to the appropriation problem.
5) Request an immediate supplemental appropriation which would require a special session of the Legislature to be called by the Governor. This approach has been discussed with Legislative leadership and the Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting, and does not appear possible.
6) Implement a combination of the above alternatives.
Required Action
A Commission meeting to discuss possible alternatives and receive legal advice on the alternatives is needed. The Commission needs to provide direction to the Commission’s staff and attorneys.
You can find a spreadsheet with current budget figures by line item here.

Summaries of the three lawsuits are included on pages 9 and 10 of one the exhibit sent to commissioners on Friday. The first eight pages of that document did not translate well to Google Drive, but the summaries on pages 9 and 10 are readable.

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I understand a notice of meeting will be issued sometime today for a commission meeting to be held on Thursday. I'll let you know.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Redistricting: IRC filing in legislature's federal court suit

On Friday, counsel for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission filed a brief in the state legislature's lawsuit challenging the very existence of the Commission. I learned of it this morning when I saw Howie Fischer's story in the Arizona Daily Sun (Flagstaff).

I will not be able to read the brief until later but wanted to get it posted for you now.

Fischer wrote:
PHOENIX — Attorneys for the Independent Redistricting Commission are asking a federal court to dismiss what they contend is a power grab by state lawmakers.
Legal papers filed late Friday in federal court acknowledge there was a loss of power by the Legislature in 2000 when voters approved creating the commission and giving it the power to draw the lines for congressional and legislative districts. But Mary O’Grady said that does not make the system illegal.
“That was the intent,” she wrote. And O’Grady said the leaders of the Legislature, who are trying overturn at least part of the 2000 initiative, are “concerned more with the loss of power than the will of the people who elect its members.” (emphasis mine)
Hanging in the balance is who divides Arizona into its nine congressional districts.
Lawmakers are asking the three-judge panel to immediately overturn the part of the voter-approved measure that lets the commission draw those lines. That would free the Republican-controlled Legislature to redraw the lines ahead of the 2014 race — a move that likely would upset the current 5-4 edge that Democrats hold in the state’s congressional delegation.
Central to the question is a federal constitutional requirement saying the times, places and manner of holding elections for federal senators and representatives “shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof.” That was the way the lines were drawn in Arizona through the 1990 redistricting.
A quick scan of the AIRC brief reveals this conclusion:
The Elections Clause is an important balancing of federal and state power. To increase its own political power, the Legislature advances a theory that upends that balance using the federal constitution to act as an invasive limit on Arizona’s right to structure its legislative power as it sees fit. For all of the reasons explained above, the Court should reject the Legislature’s claim and enter judgment for defendants.
The filing also includes a few exhibits and attachments. Notably, a nine-page excerpt from Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 which Framed the Constitution of the United States of America as reported by James Madison; and a couple of pages from the Congressional Record of the Sixty-second Congress, First Session.

I look forward to reading them this evening. By the way, there's no way, even though the AIRC will ultimately win this lawsuit, that the three-judge panel will grant the motion to dismiss. This kind of thing has to be litigated and made part of judicial records for posterity.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Voter Suppression Bill (HB2305) referendum looking good for ballot certification but...

Yesterday, Protect Your Right to Vote committee, which last month filed more than 146,000 signatures to require Arizona voters to decide the fate of HB2305, filed suit in Maricopa County Superior Court.

A number of signatures that County Recorders in Cochise, Pima and Pinal counties compared with voter registration rolls were disqualified in error. There were questions of whether some of the voters were registered to vote at the time they signed the petitions; other questions of addresses not matching but the voter still being a registered voter in the county at issue; and other questions of dates either missing or incomplete.

To qualify and compel the measure to be on the 2014 general election ballot, roughly 62 percent of the signatures have to be found to be valid. Robbie Sherwood, spokesman for the committee, says he is confident Maricopa County's verification process will validate signatures at a high enough rate to make certification of the referendum very likely. The three counties sued in the action filed yesterday validated 82 percent of the signatures. The lawsuit may end up being unnecessary (moot) and therefore ultimately dropped. They won't know until the other counties finish their examination of the petitions. That should be within the next few business days.

This suit was filed Friday because there is a five day time limit after a county finishes the examination and turns in it's report to the Secretary of State. Cochise, Pima and Pinal finished on Monday. The other counties are still working on the project.

The significance of each signature, whether it qualifies or gets disqualified is that it represents 20 signatures because only a five percent (or 1/20th of all of the signatures) sample of signatures is being examined. The initial review by the Secretary of State threw out about seven thousand signatures for various strict compliance issues pursuant to A.R.S. 19-201.01. The measure will be on the ballot as long as the total signatures deemed valid is more than 86,305 or roughly 62 percent.

If you're interested, read the ten page lawsuit for yourself.


David Schweikert is hoping nobody beside him reads this

Remember the other day when I told you about Arizona's own "Mr. Transparency?" That would be Congressman David Schweikert.

His record of advocating for transparency in government -- by everyone except himself -- is clear.

I first posted about this particular problem ten days ago.

Briefly, here's the scoop. David campaigned in 2010 -- boasting of his financial prowess -- that he had managed taxpayer money as Maricopa County Treasurer (elected in 2004) to make hundreds of millions of dollars in volatile bond markets.

Cut to October 2013. The Congress, failing to pass a budget, or even a Continuing Resolution, shut down the federal government on the first of the month. The entire world (notably, governments and financial markets) knew that the US Treasury would hit a debt ceiling on October 17.

Well, the man who represents the Congressional district I live in vigorously advocated, besides saying how much fun he was having by shutting down the federal government, repeatedly claiming the debt ceiling crisis was just a hoax.
But “default,” to Schweikert, means that the U.S does not pay interest on its debt. Schweikert said the government will still be able to pay the interest on its debt, even without raising the limit, but will have to make cuts elsewhere – or find new revenues.
“The federal government holds several trillion dollars worth of assets,” Schweikert said. “Why don’t we just sell some of them?”
It's a given that unstable credit risks have to pay more to borrow money, right? As much as he is intellectually prepared to defend his position that the debt crisis is a hoax, there's a much bigger force than the Congress that disagrees with him in a big way.
Uncertainty is manifesting in short-term securities, particularly in Treasury bills where yields continue to blow out on fears that the government won't pay up when these securities mature. [...]
The US debt ceiling negotiations paused yesterday, suggesting that it is more likely to go right to the October 17 deadline before an agreement is reached. Meanwhile, the pressure is mounting from both the credit agencies and markets. Fitch has placed the US on negative watch as a result of the debt ceiling negotiations while the yields on US bills have spiked higher. (emphasis mine)
Higher yield on T-bills means that for the same amount loaned to the Treasury, the investor gets more back when it comes time to redeem that particular debt instrument. This occurs, even when the stated interest rate does not change. The process is called discounting. Instead of paying $100 to get a certain return on that investment, the buyer of the T-bill only pays (for example) $80. Thus, causing the spike in borrowing costs for the US Treasury.

By the way, with the Capitol Times story cited above, we start to see the limits to David's willingness to be transparent HIMSELF. Which obligations, since you know that interest payments will be made, do you think should be made to wait? Payments to small business contractors and vendors? Or Medicare payments to drug companies supplying medications to seniors? What do you think will happen to the young reporter who dares to ask those questions? Of course, anymore, the veteran journos rarely even ask.

-----

Since I had heard nothing from Schweikert or anyone in the media challenging him on these issues, on Wednesday I called and talked with his district director. Of course, he's not the press relations guy, so other than just saying that David does not now trade in the bond markets, he said he'd pass along my questions to staff in the DC office. Needless to say, the only response has been -- crickets.

Then I see where local Channel 12 political reporter and Sunday Square Off host Brahm Resnik has posted, to Facebook, a clip from an interview he did with Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. That's potentially a whole 'nuther blog post. But I asked Brahm about Schweikert.


In case this screenshot is difficult to read, here's the main thrust:
Me: What did Schweikert say?
Brahm Resnik: We had a contentious back and forth in which he accused me of parroting Democratic blogs that I've never read (but he apparently has). He contends that Bill Gross of Pimco agreed with his stance that Treasury could prioritize debt payments (I went back and checked -- not really), tried to give me a tutorial in bond maturities, and said I was engaging in uncivil discourse when I used the phrase "gun to the head." In short, he yielded on nothing, even when I asked him three times why he fund-raised during the shutdown after accusing the Democrats of doing that. Wouldn't acknowledge he signed fund-raising letter.
Since I haven't been able to find any other "Democratic blogs" that have written about Schweikert and his problem with transparency and his pushing the US Treasury to the brink of default, I take this as David's acknowledgement that he's read what I've written over the last ten days about him.

Yet, now he has crossed the line into defense mechanisms more complex than simply denial.
1. Denial. You can consider this the "generic" defense mechanism because it underlies many of the others. When you use denial, you simply refuse to accept the truth or reality of a fact or experience. "No, I'm just a social smoker," is a good example; similarly people can apply this to any bad habit they wish to distance themselves from including excessive alcohol or substance use, compulsive shopping or gambling, and the like. "Just say no," in this case means that you protect your self-esteem by failing to acknowledge your own behavior. Denial may also be used by victims of trauma or disasters and may even be a beneficial initial protective response. In the long run, however, denial can prevent you from incorporating unpleasant information about yourself and your life and have potentially destructive consequences.
For example (and I'm not actually able to psychoanalyze David Schweikert, so that's not what this example is, per se):
8. Rationalization. When you rationalize something, you try to explain it away... it involves dealing with a piece of bad behavior on your part rather than converting a painful or negative emotion into a more neutral set of thoughts. People often use rationalization to shore up their insecurities or remorse after doing something they regret such as an "oops" moment. It's easier to blame someone else than to take the heat yourself, particularly if you would otherwise feel shame or embarrassment. For example, let's say you lose your temper in front of people you want to like and respect you. Now, to help make yourself feel better, you mentally attribute your outburst to a situation outside your control, and twist things so that you can blame someone else for provoking you.
Frankly, we all use emotional defense mechanisms, so the point is not to say there is something emotionally wrong with the Congressman. Instead, it's to look at specific things he has said or done and shed light on them and figure out to whether we should take them at face value.

There appears to be quite a bit of that going on in his exchange with Resnik as the broadcast reporter relayed them (in the screenshot above). How about in this Slate.com story about The GOP's Alamo:
Arizona Rep. David Schweikert tore into one reporter’s question about the “polls” showing the GOP’s reputation falling. “Did you look at the samples?” asked Schweikert. After the reporter slumped away, Schweikert told me that the media’s polls missed the target.
 “We were in the field last week doing some polling,” he said. “I think the left and some of the media supporters on the left are going to be shocked when they look at these underlying numbers—the margin against the health care law among swing voters. The left hates me—the left has always hated me!—the right is with me, and the swing voters are moving. There was some amazing data in there.”
Rather than face up to the reality and ramifications of his actions, David "tore into one reporter's question..." and rationalized the poll results away as "the left hates me -- the left has always hated me! -- the right is with me, and the swing voters are moving."

I don't have the data he says he has, so I'm not in a position to question what the swing voters are doing. But he dismisses those who challenge him on what is most obviously a problematic conflict in his position as a Congressman and his advocacy as simply a partisanship issue.

He has done his best to first ignore the situation, then to attack the journalists who try to ask him the hard questions he should be facing. IF he really believed in transparency, he would face his own fears and come up with straight answers.

On the subject of Schweikert's conflict of interest regarding bond trading, it's really not sufficient to simply say that he does not now trade in bond markets.

An entirely new industry has recently arisen in DC to trade in "political intelligence." While Andy Borowitz may one day soon have a field day with that expression (like movies such as Catch-22 did with the expression "military intelligence"), Big Money sees information from Congress, the White House and executive branch agencies as a gold mine in which it can easily find rich veins.

As horrible of a Congressional candidate as Andrei Cherny was in 2012, the idea he promoted -- disclosing all of his contacts and meetings was a noble, even if not well thought out concept. Still, I don't know that there is a way to keep this kind of thing from plausibly -- at minimum -- appearing to be a conflict of interest.

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Okay, so maybe David Schweikert doesn't really care whether you read this or not. As long as you're a Democrat or progressive leaning independent voter, that is. But eventually, he will either come to grips with the situation he has gotten himself into or he will be vulnerable come election time.

A number of people have been declaring their disapproval for Congress on Facebook lately. The ones I read mainly the grouse about the GOP and Arizona Democratic members of Congress who thought they could get away with voting with the GOP over the last few weeks. None of that is going to make a hill of beans difference unless credible candidates emerge and declare intentions to run against the incumbents. The sooner, the better.

However, Arizona Republic editorial writer Linda Valdez made a good argument for Republicans to seize on this opportunity to show Schweikert (and his buddies Franks, Gosar and Salmon) the Russell Pearce treatment. Besides explaining that these four knuckleheads are not good for business, Valdez writes,
The business community needs to recruit replacements for Arizona’s GOP House members. The Russell Pearce experience shows how and why.
The model that brought down the man once called Arizona’s de facto governor can rid the state’s delegation of Republican Reps. Trent Franks, Paul Gosar, Matt Salmon and David Schweikert. [...]
Conventional wisdom says Franks-Gosar-Salmon-Schweikert are in such cozy GOP districts that they will win re-election no matter what they do.
But conventional wisdom also said former state Senate President Pearce was untouchable.
All you need are the right four men. Sorry, ladies.
They have to be White because these are predominately White districts.
They have to be conservative because RINOs won’t do.
They have to be Republicans because there aren’t enough Democrats in these districts to put together a decent softball team.
But there are independents. Lots of them. 
Might a Groscost scenario be too much to hope for? Probably. But getting Arizona business advocates to take an interest in making Schweikert and his three GOP co-conspirators face well-financed primary opposition is not so far-fetched.

Perhaps the good news is that America's political landscape is littered with the carcasses of former elected politicians who took their opposition for granted.

Oh, by the way, don't believe Schweikert's polling claims. He's not really that good of a liar.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Appeals Court blocks Lobbyist Shakedown Bill

Today, Arizona Court of Appeals Judge Randall Howe ordered the following in the special action filed by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, state Rep. Victoria Steele, CCEC commissioner Louis Hoffman and the Arizona Advocacy Network to challenge the hubris of the Republican majority in the Arizona Legislature regarding campaign contribution limits:
At the conclusion of oral argument,
IT IS ORDERED accepting special action jurisdiction and granting relief, with opinion to follow.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED preliminarily enjoining Real Party in Interest, Ken Bennett, in his official capacity as Secretary of State, from enforcing or implementing House Bill 2593 pending further order of this court.
Judge Howe's order reversed an earlier ruling by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain, who declined to issue the plaintiffs' requested injunction.

Earlier this month, plaintiffs filed their petition in the Appeals Court. Concluding, after making the case in the first 40 pages,
For the foregoing reasons, Petitioners respectfully request that this Court accept special action jurisdiction, reverse the trial court’s denial of Petitioners’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, and preliminarily (and, if appropriate, permanently) enjoin the Secretary from implementing HB 2593.
Secretary of State and gubernatorial wannabe Ken Bennett, Senate President Andy Biggs and Congressional wannabe and House Speaker Andy Tobin responded to the lawsuit. Former Senate President Steve Pierce along with Toby Farmer and the Southern Arizona Conservative PAC filed an amicus brief hoping to sway the Appeals Court. Plaintiffs replied to the amicus brief pointing out that Pierce, Farmer and sacpac had nothing to add that Bennett, Biggs and Tobin couldn't advocate for.
Amici do not articulate any reason why Petitioners’ should not be granted the relief they seek. Petitioners therefore respectfully request that this Court accept special action jurisdiction, reverse the trial court’s denial of Petitioners’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, and preliminarily (and, if appropriate, permanently) enjoin the Secretary from implementing HB 2593.
A footnote in plaintiffs reply is notable:
That Amici have discerned ways to circumvent the base limits even with the aggregate caps in place does not diminish the aggregate caps’ function as an anti-circumvention measure. (Amici Br. 32.) Nor does Amici’s suggestion that there were other ways the voters could have addressed anti-circumvention concerns establish that the aggregate individual cap is not designed to prevent circumvention.
Today's ruling is a clear and emphatic, if possibly only temporary, statement that in Arizona the unholy alliance between Big Money and GOP lawmakers must be subject to the explicitly stated limits as implemented by the voters of this state.

This case also magnifies the significance of last fall's vote on Prop 115 and last month's Arizona Supreme Court ruling completely and permanently blocking HB 2600. Politicizing the courts in our state would be disastrous, ironically rendering rulings like these meaningless.

The extreme right wing that controls Arizona's GOP doesn't give two hoots about the will of the voters -- except when it suits them and/or when they can manipulate populist sentiment into anti-government fervor (Tea Party).  

By the way, this victory could be only temporary because the next step is virtually guaranteed, appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court. If the Supremes agree with Judge Howe, then we could see a lawsuit brought in federal court. I'm reminded of the not so distant past when the SCOTUS blocked a Montana Supreme Court ruling regarding campaign finance limits.

Since today's ruling is a case where the challenge to campaign finance limits came from the legislature, I can't speculate with any certainty on how close of a parallel it has to the Montana case. 

Further, I can't help but picture the three respondents, Ken Bennett, Andy Biggs and Andy Tobin bowing down to their god, Big Money and praying that this goes -- quickly -- to the US Supreme Court. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Why is Corporate Media giving Schweikert a pass on vigorous debt ceiling advocacy?

David Schweikert, the Republican who represents Arizona's Sixth Congressional District is a rich man.
WASHINGTON – At least four members of Arizona’s congressional delegation had estimated wealth of more than $1 million in 2010, according to a report by the Washington Post.
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale, topped the list with an estimated net worth of $33.9 million, an increase of more than 400 percent since 2004, according to the analysis.
He was followed by Republican Sen. John McCain with $16 million, Rep. David Schweikert, R-Scottsdale, with $6.2 million, and Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Phoenix, with $1.1 million.
But only one of those four are vigorously advocating against lifting the US Treasury's Debt Ceiling.
“It is implausible the United States would ever default,” he said. “The math makes that clear.”
Schweikert is one of a growing number of Republicans who insist the country will not default if it hits the debt limit, and he accused Lew and President Barack Obama of using the word “default” as a scare tactic. In speeches on the House floor, in public appearances and in a letter this week to Lew, Schweikert has insisted that the U.S. has options that do not require raising the debt limit.
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David Schweikert is also an ambitious politician with a disarming smile and gracious manner.

In 2010, running for what would become his first term in Congress, Schweikert campaign material boasted about his track record with investments.
One of his great successes was earning over 300 million dollars in investment income while never taking a loss during a volatile bond market.
Impressive, right? No doubt. A skill that has served him well? Too well, maybe.

In the wee hours of the morning a few days ago, I posted about Schweikert.
Left unstated in his grandiose claim is that if there is plenty of cash to make debt service payments, other demands (bills now due for payment) for the cash now in the treasury would be left unpaid.
Later that day, USA Today reported, in a story headlined Debt limit breach no big deal, some GOP lawmakers say:
Everyone agrees that the nation is coming up against the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling. The debate is over when that will happen, and what comes next. [...]
"I will hear language like, 'Well, we are heading toward the debt ceiling and you are going to default.' Anyone that says that is looking you in the eyes and lying to you, either that or they don't own a calculator," Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., said in a House debate Friday. [...]
"The bottom line is, Treasury has the ability to manage that, so the date is whatever Secretary Lew claims the date will be," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. 
White House officials concede there's some truth in that. The government will still have $30 billion in cash on Oct. 17, plus whatever tax receipts come in each day. "You'll have days, not weeks, until you deplete that money and you default," said Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, at the Politico breakfast. "It's irresponsible to get to the 17th — but no, you don't fall off a cliff instantly."
The Treasury Department says even approaching the debt limit could rattle the markets and result in increased borrowing costs
Veronique de Rugy, an economist at the free-market Mercatus Center at George Mason University, said the debt ceiling will have to be raised sooner or later — and Republicans should know that. (emphases mine)
David Schweikert KNOWS full well that pushing the US Treasury to the brink of default will rattle financial markets. When credit ratings downgrade, borrowing costs go up, sometimes dramatically. But he is not concerned. After all, he has the expertise to profit magnificently from volatile bond markets, right?

Despite numerous reports in the immediate aftermath of the federal government shutdown that -- failure to restart the government should have no negative consequences for the US Treasury credit rating -- credit rating agencies are increasingly unsure the same holds true in the event the debt ceiling is not lifted. From Bloomberg,
The U.S.’s top AAA credit ranking was put on review “with negative implications” by DBRS Inc., which cited the government’s failure to raise the federal debt limit.
The Toronto-based ratings company took the action as a deadlock in Washington kept the U.S. government partially shut for a ninth day and a debt deadline approached. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew has told Congress extraordinary measures being used to avoid breaching the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling “will be exhausted no later than Oct. 17” and the department will have about $30 billion in cash to pay obligations.
“This action reflects the growing risk of a selective default by the federal government,” DBRS said in an e-mailed statement. The move “reflects the increasing uncertainty over the debt-ceiling outcome, combined with the potential lingering repercussions on both domestic and international investor sentiment, and therefore the U.S. economy and financial markets.”
Standard & Poor’s stripped the U.S. of its top credit grade on Aug. 5, 2011, citing Washington gridlock and the lack of an agreement on a way to contain its growing ratio of debt to gross domestic product. The ratio of public debt to GDP is projected to decline to 74.6 percent in 2015 after peaking next year at 76.2 percent, according to a Congressional Budget Office forecast in May. 
I repeat: David Schweikert KNOWS full well the ramifications of pushing the US Treasury to the brink of default. After all, he has (boasted of his) expertise to profit magnificently from volatile bond markets.

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David Schweikert also strongly advocates for transparency. In November 2011, I blogged about a 60 Minutes segment regarding Congress profiting from insider information. Correspondent Steve Kroft prefaces the clip by saying Washington insiders, like Congressional representatives, are in an environment of privilege, where rules that govern the rest of us, do not always apply to them. He says, the biggest challenge they face is avoiding temptation.
Sunday night on 60 Minutes, the CBS News magazine, Congressman David Schweikert was shown declaring that he favors immediate disclosure of key information such as potential conflicts of interest on the part of Members of Congress.
60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft confronts Schweikert about the S.T.O.C.K. Act (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge) at the 12:50 mark of this 15 minute video.
The Congressman, who encourages his constituents to call him "David," says he had never heard of the legislation, but "I would have no problem with that. But then again, I'm a big fan of instant disclosure on almost everything."
Anyway, Schweikert has supported transparency for the Federal Reserve, transparency related to Obamacare, and is even able to laugh at himself regarding goofs on Twitter.



Shouldn't a FREE PRESS help those Washington insiders resist the temptation that comes along as what Hoover Institution Fellow Peter Schweizer calls "soft corruption?"

If journalism wasn't dead (or tragically neutered) would not Washington lawmakers have a much easier time resisting temptation? Instead, as we saw in a big way with the 2012 election season, politicians are easily able to intimidate reporters working for corporate media.

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Nevertheless, it surprises me to a degree that after I wrote about this situation with Schweikert the other day, I neither heard from my Congressman by phone, voice mail, email, Tweet or Facebook. I have seen him continue to post notes asking people to listen to him in radio or television appearances. But I've neither seen nor heard anything resembling a response to the questions raised by his advocacy for ignoring the Debt Ceiling, his personal wealth and his experience making mega bucks in volatile bond markets.

Will corporate media ever demand David Schweikert answer these questions?