Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Friday, July 31, 2015

Has a Redistricting Commissioner been taking Iron(y) Supplements

As previously reported, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission met on Tuesday to select additional counsel for the Harris lawsuit for SCOTUS representation, with briefings to be filed and oral arguments held this fall or winter.

Despite Vice-Chair Scott Freeman's claim to the contrary, and despite the unanimous 5-0 vote to accept the pro bono proposal of Jenner & Block's Paul Smith to represent the AIRC, there were sparks flying during the meeting.

Freeman explained his AYE vote, ironically declaring his intention to "spare everyone the drama" from last time when he voted NAY on the decision to work with Seth Waxman in the Arizona Legislature case.
I would have done the same here, with the same provisos but not knowing whether there would be three votes to retain the Jenner Block firm, I voted yes to spare everyone the drama and the trouble and I'd like to add that I'm kinda disappointed, but perhaps not surprised that one of the commissioners [Colleen Mathis] participated in deliberations on retention of Supreme Court counsel despite the fact that the commissioner had a relationship with one of the lawyers being considered. That may not be a true pecuniary conflict of interest under state law, but certainly under the provision of the Arizona Constitution that established this commission, commissioners are supposed to conduct themselves in ways that build confidence in the redistricting process, and to be open and honest and make full disclosures and perhaps it violated the spirit of that constitutional provision. 
That he made the statement itself is ironic on more than one level, which I'll get into in a moment. IF, Freeman wanted to vote NAY on Jenner & Block, since there was nobody calling roll, all Scott had to do was wait until the other four commissioners had vocalized their AYE votes and then cast his opposing vote last. Scott's a bright guy. Not only was Freeman apparently unaware of the irony in his statement, but it seems quite obviously disingenuous.

The Yellow Sheet (July 29) reported the incident with additional comments by Freeman after the meeting.
After the meeting, Freeman registered his disappointment that Mathis had participated in the discussion. “I’m kind of disappointed, but perhaps not surprised, that one of the commissioners participated in the deliberations on retention of Supreme Court counsel, despite the fact that the commissioner had a relationship with one of the lawyers being considered,” he said, adding that commissioners should conduct themselves in a way that builds confidence in the redistricting process.
The vote to retain Jenner & Block was unanimous, but Freeman quickly expressed regret that he’d voted in favor, saying he only did so because he wasn’t sure there would be three votes against Smith’s firm. “I voted yes to spare everyone drama and the trouble,” he said. Freeman told our reporter today that he was concerned that, if he and Stertz both lodged protest votes against the outside counsel, as they did last year when the IRC voted to retain former US Solicitor General Seth Waxman (he said he didn’t want a ‘yes’ vote to be interpreted as support for the IRC’s actions), Mathis might have voted against Jenner & Block, throwing the process into chaos and perhaps leading to the retention of Elwood.
Freeman noted that Elwood and Mathis are lifelong friends, pointing to a July 9 article in the Peoria (Ill.) Star Journal about the two of them and their trip to the US Supreme Court for the redistricting arguments in March. Freeman suggested that Mathis should have recused herself, or at least asked IRC counsel and her fellow commissioners to weigh in on the issue. “Sure, she’s not getting a kickback from the guy. But, gee, it’s a high-profile case,” he said. Mathis, who attended Tuesday’s meeting via teleconference, did not return a call from our reporter.
Yellow Sheet readers may want to note that the report's quotes from Freeman, IF they were indeed from after the meeting, were verbatim the same as what he said on the record, during the meeting. It may or may not be a substantive error by the Yellow Sheet, but if that publication wants to consistently validate its bona fides, it may want to be concerned about accuracy. It sometimes seems like just a careless blog (wink, wink). But they sure do make a lot of money on it.

Anyway, Mathis DID disclose her relationship, on the record, during that meeting. The attorney she knows, John Elwood, apparently graduated from the same high school as both Colleen and her husband Chris in Peoria, Illinois. On July 9, 2015, the Peoria Journal Star reported on the relationship.
PEORIA — It’s a place that Colleen Coyle Mathis never thought she’d be. But a few months ago, she was front and center when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments why the Arizona redistricting commission she heads should remain in place.
Mathis, 47, chairs the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission which was party to a lawsuit brought by state lawmakers there. The question before the high court: Is it legal for a commission to draw voting districts or is that only the power of state lawmakers? [...]
The experience was made even more special by having a close friend, fellow Central graduate, John Elwood, write a friend of the court brief.
“In a way, having John involved and writing an amicus brief, I was comforted by that. I know him pretty well and he’s an excellent lawyer and a Supreme Court specialist,” Mathis said. “I was honored that he was willing to write an important amicus brief for us.”
Elwood, who graduated a year later than his friend, also was enthused about the experience. While he’s argued nine cases before the Supreme Court and written some 30 briefs in support of various cases, it was different this time.
“When you have known someone that long, you don’t say no,” he said recently, while drinking a cup of coffee at a Downtown java joint. They have kept in touch since high school as Elwood’s buddy back in school, Christopher Mathis, married her.
 From Elwood's law firm (Vinson & Elkins) bio,
John, a partner in the firm’s Appellate practice group, has argued nine cases before the Supreme Court of the United States, and argued before most federal courts of appeals. He has briefed and argued cases in “a broad cross-section of areas” (Chambers USA, 2013), and has particular experience in the areas of environmental law, the False Claims Act, administrative law, government contracting, and federal criminal law.
John’s work has earned him recognition as one of Washington’s top Supreme Court lawyers (Washingtonian, 2013), as one of “a small group of lawyers” with an “outsized influence at the U.S. Supreme Court” (Reuters, 2014), and as one of the country’s most innovative lawyers (Financial Times, 2014). Chambers USA reports that “[t]he much-admired John Elwood is praised for his advocacy skills” (2013), and describes John as “phenomenal” (2014), “incredibly talented” (2012), and “a much-loved and widely respected lawyer who is quick on his feet” (2010). 
By the way, Paul Smith, who was selected this week to represent the AIRC pro bono, also wrote an amicus brief in Arizona Legislature.

The bigger irony appears to be in Freeman's declared intent (quoted above, about how commissioners conduct themselves). On June 30, immediately after his commission won a long and hard fought victory from SCOTUS in Arizona Legislature, the Arizona Republic published an op-ed under Freeman's byline. That column represents Freeman's shameless effort (conduct) to UNDERMINE the public confidence in the AIRC.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld Arizona's scheme through which an independent redistricting commission conducts congressional redistricting.
The Arizona Legislature had challenged the commission's authority, arguing that the framers assigned the task of congressional redistricting to "the legislature" of each state in the elections clause of the U.S. Constitution. But five justices have now construed the term "the legislature" to mean something unknown to the framers: an unelected, unaccountable, "independent" commission created by voter initiative.
The SCOTUS opinion penned by Justice Ginsberg directly contradicts Freeman's outrageous claims about what the Framers did or did not know. An excerpt from the Ginsberg's opinion,
There were obvious precursors or analogues to the direct lawmaking operative today in several States, notably, New England’s town hall meetings and the submission of early state constitutions to the people for ratification. 
And the barbs Freeman tossed out later in his op-ed were no more credible than being simply statements of his bitter viewpoint. His characterizations of litigation outcomes are just wrong.
Proponents argue that commission-based redistricting schemes like the one Arizona created in 2000 take the politics out of redistricting, eliminate partisanship and self-interest, and add transparency and competitiveness. Arizona's initiative created a five-member commission with safeguards designed to keep it politically balanced, independent and open, and with clear instructions on how to draw the maps.
The new system seemed to work in 2001, with the commission approving bipartisan maps. But the 2011 redistricting was a fiasco. What went wrong? Plenty.
Every vote of significance was the same 3-2 partisan split.
Commissioners secretly discussed hiring a Democratic data-mining company as the commission's mapping consultant, rendering the procurement process a sham.
Subsequent litigation revealed that a commissioner custom-designed districts outside of public meetings with the "assistance" of an Arizona Democratic Party representative who had a direct link to the mapping consultant's server.
Besides the fact that Freeman misrepresents the "spirit and intent" of the decisions in the "subsequent litigation," his characterizations are based on his long known intent to undermine the legitimacy of the commission. By the way, I have stated on more than one occasion that the intent of independent redistricting is NOT to eliminate partisanship but rather to eliminate the blatant conflicts of interest elected legislatures, by definition, have when they draw district lines for their own chambers or for Congress.

In his screed (for the record, transcribed above, and in his remarks to the Yellow Sheet reporter), it seems he's oblivious to the irony with which he spoke this week, as shown by his conduct over the last couple of years as a commissioner who took an oath to uphold the Constitutions of both the United States AND Arizona.

I'd love to also get into the conflict of interest laws and rules that apply here, as Freeman so shamelessly tried to implicate Mathis for violating the spirit thereof, but will save it for another day.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Redistricting -- IRC taps DC attorney for Harris case representation

This afternoon, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission met and selected Paul M. Smith of the law firm of Jenner & Block for briefing and oral arguments when the Harris case comes before SCOTUS this fall/winter.
Paul M. Smith is Chair of the Appellate and Supreme Court Practice and Co-Chair of the Media and First Amendment, and Election Law and Redistricting Practices. He has had an active Supreme Court practice for three decades, including oral arguments in 16 Supreme Court cases involving matters ranging from free speech and civil rights to civil procedure. Among his important victories have been Lawrence v. Texas, the landmark gay rights case, and Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Ass’n, establishing the First Amendment rights of those who produce and sell video games.
Additionally,
Best Lawyers named him the Washington DC First Amendment Lawyer of the Year for 2012. Mr. Smith was awarded the Thurgood Marshall Award by the American Bar Association Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities for his work promoting civil rights and civil liberties.
About the firm:
Jenner & Block is defined by the exceptional results we produce, the values we share, the clients we serve and most importantly, our attorneys. Jenner & Block lawyers consistently deliver excellence in the most complex and demanding legal matters, both litigation and transactions. They do not consider the practice of law a job, but rather a calling to serve clients, the profession and the community.
IRC executive director Ray Bladine indicated to me that Smith will represent the commission pro bono. Seth Waxman did likewise in the recently decided Arizona Legislature case. The cheapskates in the legislature should be thankful the IRC has again procured pro bono representation. But in that the controlling GOP caucuses are likely still stinging from SCOTUS spanking them last month, they may not be willing to express much thankfulness.

Additional information will be available as soon as an audio recording of the meeting is posted. I was attending to family health matters and could not attend, but plan to report in further detail by Thursday evening.

-----

On Wednesday evening (July 29), thousands of "house parties" (and other places throughout the US) will play host to what the campaign expects to be more than 75,000 supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Sanders' website lists 33 events within 100 miles of my zip code. There may still be time to find one near you.

The political revolution has only just begun.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Redistricting -- #AZIRC meeting called for Tuesday July 28

Tuesday, July 28 at 3 pm Mountain Standard Time, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission will meet (mostly telephonically) to discuss (probably some of it in executive session) two remaining lawsuits pending against the Commission, the Leach case and the Harris case.

Leach is in Maricopa County Superior Court and symbolically represents Vince Leach (currently a member of the Arizona House of Representatives) throwing a bowl of spaghetti against a wall and hoping some of it sticks. Leach's bio says he's "a public servant at heart..." and has been involved with, among other things, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. Of course, that's entirely misleading on his part.

Venden (Vince) Leach has, for years now, put concerted effort into UNDERMINING the will of the people by HINDERING and SUING the Redistricting Commission. The lawsuit, more specifically, claims a number of procedural errors committed by the Commission, none of which seems to have any relevance or veracity.

The Harris case, currently briefing before SCOTUS, will be subject to oral arguments in DC next winter. That lawsuit essentially alleges reverse discrimination by the Commission, unfairly diluting the power of the Republican Party in the Arizona Legislature. That allegation, of course, is absurd on its face, as I have reported previously in the Arizona Eagletarian.

Because these lawsuits have either languished or been intentionally held up by plaintiffs pending the SCOTUS ruling last month, they are now going to move forward. The question of whether to contract with Seth Waxman or any other high-powered DC litigator will be among the things the AIRC will discuss and hopefully decide on Tuesday.

An executive director's report and public comment are also on the agenda. The meeting will not be live streamed. I hope to attend, pending some family health related matters, and report to you on Tuesday evening. I do understand that an audio recording of the meeting will eventually be posted on the AIRC website.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The rest of #NN15 -- My impressions

While the Saturday morning town hall has dominated the news about the Netroots Nation conference, there were panel discussions and training presentations also. Many of them well worth the time spent.

Yesterday, a friend asked me what I thought about the conference apart from the town hall. Here are my thoughts on the subject.

She asked:
What were your impressions of Netroots? I thought some of the trainings were really worthwhile!
My thoughts:
Key word in your statement -- "some." I agree.
The first one I went to was a complete waste of time. It was on the new
model of digital organizing. The message of that session boiled down exclusively to "send more email." No mention, at least before I left which may have been a few minutes before it finished, of the fact that saturating email inboxes with requests for donations turns off a LOT of people.
As much as I'd love to see Ann Kirkpatrick beat the pants off of McCain, her campaign last year got a lot of feedback (that people complained about on facebook) from people disgusted with getting several emails from her EVERY day asking for money.
I loved sessions on energy policy; turning young activism into policy; on what happens when people write to their Congressional reps; and harnessing the power of narrative.
Though I write most days, I got a lot out of the session on the power of narrative. 
Arizona House Minority Leader Eric Meyer did great in the Saturday afternoon session on Education in Arizona, handling the stream of consciousness flow of the discussion with grace and insight.
The panel on how Progressive Arizona became Tea Party dominated was very interesting, as the panelists shared deep and long experience and wonderful insight, but it really did not unify around the stated topic. Dan Shilling spent years as head of the AZ Humanities Council. Shilling, Alfredo Gutierrez and Jon Talton are all truly Arizona treasures.
The panel sponsored by the DLCC on redistricting was good and bad. The moderator did a fine job. All three elected lawmakers did great (Sen. Martin Quezada, Rep. Charlene Fernandez (both are AZ Latinos) and state Rep. Dan Pabon from Colo). But the DLCC executive director seemed profoundly unprepared for this audience having any understanding of redistricting. I wasn't the only one to call him out. There's a video of that session on the nn15 website
The NN15 organizers had an impossible task... they did a great job
in spite of the challenge. I've blogged twice THRICE now about the Saturday morning townhall. The organizers share a large part of the responsibility for the confusion. But really, it must have felt like they were trying to herd cats much of the time.
The session immediately prior to the town hall, on the subject of creative disruption, was all but a direct invitation to disrupt the town hall. That said, overall I'm not upset with how the town hall turned out. The only after effect that concerns me is that a certain corporate Democrat is exploiting the situation when she doesn't really have a right to do so, since she failed to even enter the arena.
Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. 

-----

My friend shared a strategy that worked for her. Get several friends to divvy up the sessions for each time slot, then let the others know by text message which ones were worth the time, which ones were boring, etc.

That's a great idea. Next time I go, that's what I'll try to do.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished?

Okay, so quite a few of my "white progressive" friends along with some people I had never heard of before today, have been on my case, pretty much all day, for my last blog post.

I took it in stride for several hours, but really, can you not realize when you've got a complex situation to deal with? Life isn't all neat and clean. It's messy, even on good days.

So, I took the #nn15townhall protesters to task for being unwilling or unable to recognize that they were being heard. On principle, I cannot take it back.

I said their cause was and is righteous. I don't take that back, even though some of the people I respect the most don't get that point and cannot even discuss it without shutting down with, at best, "we'll just have to agree to disagree." That would be fine but what part of my message that the protesters' cause was justified do these people not get?

The protesters ranted. They got worldwide attention. But they did NOT get any tangible promises that morning about what will be done to solve the underlying problems about which they protested.

WHY NOT?

Because they didn't 1) ask for any tangible response and 2) they didn't listen to figure out that they were heard.

They were frikkin HEARD. Goddam it. What part of that do these intelligent, compassionate liberals not understand?

When or if they can get past those points, then we can bitch about whether Bernie committed a mortal sin by being miffed that THEY DIDN'T WANT A CONVERSATION.

Smart people are claiming that holders of White Privilege are to blame for the entire incident now. That is nothing but absurd. One person even dared to say I was showing callous evidence of MY White Privilege.

I'm a short fat guy. I have NEVER gotten any advantage in employment that regular tall white guys for decades have gotten.

I've been subject to deprivation of civil rights in Family Court because I was the husband and courts take accusations by women seriously, without examining evidence sometimes, but they do not the generally validate denials by the husbands. That may save lives. For which I'm thankful.

I came out the other side of that divorce litigation with my soul intact. I endured it. But it was NOT White Privilege in any way, shape, form, fashion or manner. I was subject to unreasonably harsh treatment -- just because. I can surmise that it's because the courts are overwhelmed (which they are and have been because nobody likes to pay taxes) and they have to take shortcuts. Even still, some people die. Thankfully, not me.

But it was still hell. It still took an immense toll on my life.

A dear (Anglo) friend of mine has a(n Anglo) son who was brutalized by police for daring to try to intervene to help a person of color in a tense situation where police were trying to control a crowd. It was genuinely physically and emotionally traumatic for both my friend and her son. How many others???? Who knows. Is it White Privilege because that young man is still alive?

Don't freakin' lecture me about White Privilege. You have no clue.

Why do you think I write with attitude, aiming at injustice anywhere I see it?

In the best of situations, (and Saturday morning's town hall was an artificial situation, not one where police were going to brutalize anyone, so it was essentially an ideal situation for that protest to occur without any personal repercussions) solving problems is stressful.

Don't lecture me about that town hall. I was there. Yeah, some people in the audience were inconvenienced. I already stated that unequivocally AND I said that the protesters' cause was worthy.

These intelligent, compassionate friends of mine who couldn't allow themselves to rationally analyze the situation they sat through should be ashamed.

The protesters -- IF they want or wanted anything other than attention -- had and still have a responsibility to listen.

Tia Oso's op-ed yesterday was about her, not about her cause. Read it and count how many descriptions of the problems of racism she mentioned or described. Then count how many times she talked about herself.

Yeah, after nearly 12 hours of taking shit from people who should know better, I'm irritated. But you know what? All I'm going to do with that anger is what I'm doing now. And if Tia Oso has the least bit of sense, or maturity, she'll take my message to heart and REACH OUT to Bernie's campaign, thanking them for Bernie responding and demonstrating that he has heard her message. And she should hope that Bernie is then willing to sit one on one with her, which I bet he'll do, as long as she commits to listening as well as she can excitedly rant.

White privilege my ass.

Not only have I been badgered today (I can take it. I'll be fine), but a presidential candidate with a half century record of fighting for racial justice has been severely criticized by people who DO enjoy White Privilege for "being noticeably irritated" after traveling all the way across the country to answer questions, including theirs.

That's chutzpah, my friends. A LOT of people owe a lot to Bernie Sanders for coming to #nn15. Watch this video... a couple of times if necessary. Then tell me whether he heard Tia Oso?


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

Make sure it's the political elephant that gets its guts ripped out, NOT the only candidate willing to advocate without reservation for racial and economic justice for ALL Americans.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

New Light on #nn15 Town Hall Incident

What struck me initially as a righteous cause still holds that view in my mind.

But with alternative perspective set forth by Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, the complexity of the situation begins to unfold.

Then today, Phoenix New Times journalist Ray Stern reported that Tia Oso, the protester who got up on stage with Martin O'Malley and the moderator to hold forth for about 15 minutes, has previously been convicted of felony embezzlement.
Anshantia "Tia" Oso, one of the protesters who interrupted a Town Hall event with presidential candidates Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders on Saturday, writes in a high-profile column today that she was the "right person" to lead the halting of the program.
Oso touts her many activist qualifications in the column, but she left one thing off her bio: her 2009 conviction for embezzling thousands of dollars from a nonprofit Valley arts organization.
To Oso's credit, she has worked hard to pay back the embezzled funds, after which her conviction was changed to a misdemeanor. I respect and admire her for that.

However, by taking the microphone and expounding for so long, she also disrespected the only presidential candidate who has impeccable credentials in advocating for civil rights, disrespected the audience, AND disrespected the organizers of the Netroots Nation Conference.

In the heat of the moment on Saturday morning, and since, I've been inclined to give the protesters slack for their reckless zeal. That is, because the cause is so acutely urgent. But do we even know if any official organizers of the #BlackLivesMatter movement even had any idea that the protest was going to take place?

If the movement is going to be at all cohesive and fruitful, it will require effective leadership. If that leadership doesn't figure out how to recognize when they are being heard, like Tia Oso and the several dozen fellow protesters failed to do, it will end up fanning the flames of racism, not causing them to be doused and our society healed.

On a tangent, my main interest since beginning this blog in 2010 has been independent redistricting. One of the main instigators of opposition to the work of the Independent Redistricting Commission has been another convicted felon, Wes Harris. Because of the perspective Harris advocates from, I take issue with just about everything he pushes. But I have to give him credit for owning up to his crime and not getting defensive about it when I first asked him.

My point is this. Tia Oso has a voice and a right to speak up about the entrenched racism in America. She has a right to demand change. I hope she persists until she succeeds. But she will not succeed if she thinks she can just gloss over, by ignoring it, her crime even though it may be attributed to the poor judgment of her youth. She must incorporate the personal history in her overall narrative, at least when it comes to political involvement and advocacy.

And she must learn from the most effective Black leader of the last hundred years. Martin Luther King Jr. knew when it was time to listen.
The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood. -Martin Luther King Jr.
and this one is particularly poignant in light of the adverse ramifications of Ms. Oso's impromptu action.
Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent. -Martin Luther King Jr.
Isn't Hillary the inevitable nominee? Ms. Oso, how much change do you think the corporate candidate will make?



Yeah, white liberals may share responsibility for racism not having been eliminated from our society. Many of the white liberals at the convention on Saturday assigned blame to O'Malley and Sanders for how the incident played out. Because neither had responsibility for control of the conference or the town hall, I think it's a bogus claim.

I don't retract anything I wrote Sunday about the fact that each of the candidates could have handled the situation better. But they were not responsible for how it started or how it played out.

BOTH either immediately listened or indicated they were prepared to listen. The protesters WERE HEARD.

The primary ramification of the reckless enthusiasm was to give corporate media and Hillary Clinton a golden opportunity to try to quash the ONLY candidate who has a track record of fighting for exactly the kind of change the protesters say they want to make happen.

And Hillary took the ball right off that tee and served up a doozy of a blast on her opponents by saying, in essence, "see these guys don't love you, but I do!"

Face it, Hillary is THE corporate Democrat in this race. Tia Oso, please don't continue trying to undermine Bernie Sanders. He is the ONLY candidate who will address your stated concerns full on.

IF the only thing you're looking for is personal recognition, I won't support you.

In your op-ed published today on Mic.com, you state,
Feeling dissatisfied with Netroots' framing of black issues and the narrow focus of its immigration-themed activities, I worked with Phoenix-based organizers to create #BlackRoots, a space to focus on black perspectives and connect national organizers with local black community members.
Okay, you're dissatisfied with Netroots Nation. Take it out on and take it up with them. But they heard you too. #NN16 will be in St. Louis, as close as they can get to Ferguson, MO.

You also said,
My action, along with those of my sisters and brothers in the Movement for Black Lives, was not done to call attention to myself, but to all black people fighting to live free.
Yet, your op-ed said more about you than about your cause. You didn't just interrupt Netroots Nation. Despite claiming (again, in the op-ed)...
Our courageous and bold efforts are being applauded for changing the conversation and creating a space for a more honest and direct discourse.
...you persistently and repeatedly interrupted both candidates.  Do you even know what it takes to hold a conversation?
1.informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words; oral communication between persons; talk; colloquy
You would be correct to suppose that you can't have a conversation with somebody if you can't get them to listen to you. My observation is that you succeeded in getting that far.

Did you listen to see if your targets heard you? From where I sat (surrounded by the protesters) in the town hall, nobody in your group seemed to be looking for any such clues or cues.

The definition above includes the word "colloquy," which is a dialogue. What took place was not a dialogue, not a colloquy. Both the chants and your speech while on the stage rather gave off a very strong impression of soliloquy.
noun. 
1. an utterance or discourse by a person who is talking to himself or herself or is disregardful of or oblivious to any hearers present (often used as a device in drama to disclose a character's innermost thoughts): Hamlet's soliloquy begins with “To be or not to be.”
2. the act of talking while or as if alone. 
Please don't fool yourself into thinking what you did came anywhere close to a conversation. It wasn't a dialogue. It was a monologue.

Audiences generally tolerate comedic monologues very well.  Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Conan O'Brian and Jimmy Kimmel all demonstrated highly effective skill at delivering monologues. Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert have obviously used that skill for effective political communication. Take a lesson from them if you want to try to change America by way of monologue.

But if you want to have a conversation with power players, once you've gotten their attention, you'll have to demonstrate the capacity to listen just as well as you want them to listen to you.

IF you're serious about changing society, join me in fighting to put Bernie Sanders in office as the next President of the United States.

-----

As to critics complaining about Sanders' appearing "noticeably irritated," I want to state unequivocally that I want a fierce president capable of bending Congress and world leaders to his will. I'm not the least bit offended or put off by Sanders politely stating that if the protesters didn't want him there, that was fine.

Bernie Sanders in 2015 (2016) is NOT Howard Dean in 2004. I'm not going to remain silent while corporate media and its chosen candidate try to burn Bernie at the stake as if he were Joan of Arc (or Howard Dean).

Yes, Oso's cause is righteous. The ONLY candidate up to the challenge to address that cause and make the change is Bernie Sanders.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Netroots Nation 2015 -- Which side are YOU on, Friends? UPDATED 2:20pm MST 7-20-15

The biggest thing, news wise, to come out of #nn15 was the impromptu, disruptive protest during yesterday morning's town hall. That's been reported in several local corporate news outlets, cable news operations (and therefore online), even Al Jazeera America, and blogs.

The responses from my friends, many of whom were in the town hall audience, run the gamut from criticizing Bernie and O'Malley, to denouncing the protesters. And several things in between.

Can you really blame the protesters, especially since one of the Saturday morning #nn15 training sessions, titled Creative Disruption: Culture Jamming, Subversive Actions and Media Tactics for a 2.0 World could reasonably be considered an invitation to conduct just such a protest.

In the official program for the conference, the Creative Disruption panel was described thus:
How can we use creative disruption to interrupt injustice, advance our campaigns and shift culture? We'll explore the evolution of tactics in the age of social media, where our ability to capture the imagination of our audience determines the scale of our impact. Join us to discuss how to incorporate culture jamming, creative actions and media stunts into campaigns and to explore the broader concepts that make these tactics succeed or fail. Whether holding fake press conferences, creating spoof ads or glitterbombing presidential candidates is your thing, this panel is sure to have something to grab your attention.
Let's face it, America STILL has racism problems... entrenched institutionally. These bold activists have a genuine right to speak up about those problems and to demand police agencies stop killing people for no reason. It has been happening at an alarmingly high rate and blacks have been victims of that violence much more than others. The underlying reasons for those all too frequent incidents are many and complex but they must be addressed.

The bottom line is that this was a perfect opportunity for them to do what they did. Was it inconsiderate and inconvenient for the candidates, the moderator and the audience? Of course. The protesters were mostly women. Consider the title of Harvard historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's book, Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History, described in part on Amazon.com,
In 1976, in an obscure scholarly article, Ulrich wrote, "Well behaved women seldom make history."  Today these words appear on t-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers, greeting cards, and all sorts of Web sites and blogs.  Ulrich explains how that happened and what it means by looking back at women of the past who challenged the way history was written.
I'll also call your attention to the response released by Raven Brooks, executive director of Netroots Nation in the wake of the protest. It reads,
Netroots Nation stands in solidarity with all people seeking human rights.
With today’s Town Hall, our aim was to give presidential candidates a chance to respond to the issues facing the many diverse communities represented here.
Although we wish the candidates had more time to respond to the issues, what happened today is reflective of an urgent moment that America is facing today.
In 2016, we’re heading to St. Louis. We plan to work with activists there just as we did in Phoenix with local leaders, including the #BlackLivesMatter movement, to amplify issues like racial profiling and police brutality in a major way.
It is necessary and vital to continue this conversation. We look forward to doing so in the coming year.
So, why have the two presidential candidates been criticized for their responses to the protest? Martin O'Malley stuffed his foot in his mouth by saying,
"Every life matters ... Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter." 
Of course all lives matter. We could go off into several tangents on this but Dan Nowicki also quoted Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org,
"Saying that 'all lives matter' or 'white lives matter' immediately after saying 'Black lives matter' minimizes and draws attention away from the specific, distinct ways in which Black lives have been devalued by our society and in which Black people have been subject to state and other violence."
Bernie, as several news stories have observed, was noticeably irritated by the interruption. From Al Jazeera America,
“Black lives of course matter,” said a visibly annoyed Sanders in response to heckling, early into his scheduled appearance after O’Malley. “But I’ve spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights. If you don’t want me to be here, it’s okay."
Sanders, who apparently left the stage fifteen minutes earlier than expected, reportedly cancelled meetings he had scheduled for the rest of the afternoon prior to the evening rally. Blog posts focusing on the candidates' mistakes, however, also pointed out that he should have first said something to the effect of, "I hear you."

This write up on Eclectablog covers several very good points and has some great pics from the protest. Here's one picture I took (with my camera).



It's probably also important to note that even though the protesters didn't seem to recognize when or that they actually were heard by both candidates, none of them made any movements or suggestions that they would do anything other that SPEAK UP to call attention to their cause.

Granted, both candidates made tangible mistakes. But come on, who of us do not make mistakes? It will be far more telling about each of them as we pay attention to how they respond from this moment forward.

Then there's this quote attributed to Albert Einstein,
A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.
Both Sanders and O'Malley showed up. Isn't that what's most important to reflect on about this incident? From a speech President Theodore Roosevelt gave more than 105 years ago in Paris, France, on the subject of "Citizenship in a Republic" I give you this excerpt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Shame on the man [or woman] of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride of slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are. 
The putative front runner for the Democratic nomination didn't seem to think she needed any of us at this conference and simply did NOT show up (of course, she didn't say she would show up). News stories that reported on Hillary's absence noted the standard excuse, "scheduling conflicts." Yeah, right.



To my friends who were inconvenienced by the protest, I hear you. Likewise, I hope you hear the protesters' concerns too and stand with them. Together we must make our country change. It obviously won't be easy. 

We must resolve this most urgent civil rights problem, just as we must resolve our country's immigration problems.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Who REALLY should supervise forensic examination of Bob Stump's cell phone?

Here we go again. Does anyone at the Yellow Sheet give ANY thought to what they publish... about the clusterf**k at the Arizona Corporation Commission anyway? Here's what they reported on the subject today.
The Phoenix Police Department has also refused to handle the forensic analysis of Stump’s phone to see if any text messages are retrievable, according to an email sent from Assistant City Attorney Jennifer LaRoque to Corp Comm executive director Jodi Jerich. Last week, DPS also refused the job, saying there is no allegation of criminal activity involved in the controversy. Phoenix PD gave a similar reason. “Absent a court order based upon probable cause, the Phoenix Police Department is not authorized to obtain such information,” LaRoque wrote. The city attorney said the issue appears to be related to campaign finance or elections, so that investigation would fall under the purview of a county attorney or the AG “These officers have both the legal jurisdiction and the necessary resources to conduct election inquiries and to pursue any ensuing election violations,” she said. (emphasis mine)
Besides the fact that the Checks and Balances Project had suggested a Phoenix PD forensic specialist would examine Bob Stump's cell phone while off duty,
It’s been one month since we learned that Bob Stump, former chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), “routinely deleted” text messages on his government-funded cell phone “not long after he received them.”
Through our public records counsel, Dan Barr, we informed the Commission that despite the deletions, Stump’s text messages could probably still be found on his phone’s hard drive. We proposed a leading, Valley-based electronics forensic expert who is on the state-approved vendor list. But that suggestion was ignored. We then proposed Detective Kathy Enriquez of the Phoenix Police Department, certified as an expert by the Dept. of Homeland Security, Mobile Digital Investigations program.
... has anybody realized which agency might be most appropriate to investigate likely independent expenditure coordinating violations regarding Tom Forese and Doug Little

Weren't both Forese and Little Clean Elections participating candidates?

Why would Jodi Jerich not reach out to the Citizens Clean Elections Commission to assist with this problem... that is, if Stump continues to insist that he committed no violations of election law?

And why wouldn't the reporters at the Yellow Sheet Report be able to figure that out on their own? If they had even the least bit of interest in legitimate journalism, that is.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

It's 2015! Why is the Arizona Corporation Commission only now getting around to setting policy for personal use of computers/cell phones?

In last Friday's post, Nancy LaPlaca's open letter to the corporation commission and Arizona Public Service, we learned that there apparently was no policy in place instructing (ACC) employees and elected officials about personal use of taxpayer funded computer and cellphone devices.

Why else would the executive director of the agency need to ask permission of a policy adviser (employee), who had not worked for the agency since the beginning of 2013 (who also had surrendered the devices back to the agency when she left), to access the text and email messages on those devices?

Well, in today's Yellow Sheet Report, we learn that APS-owned commissioner Doug Little made a policy (don't know how official it could be, but it's FAR too little, too late) for his staff. (again, paragraphs inserted for readability)
The controversy over Stump’s text messages has led the Corp Comm to look for ways to better retain public records on electronic devices, settling on a process that could become a model for other state agencies. The commission this week installed software on computers, which will copy and maintain text messages, thereby creating a safety net if texts got deleted on commissioners’ devices.
The Corp Comm has been embroiled in a dispute with DC-based Checks and Balances Project, which is seeking a copy of Stump’s text messages. Stump admitted to deleting the messages on his commission-issued phone and then discarding the phone, which he said was “literally crumbling” in his hands. The software will require commissioners and their policy advisers, as well as executive director Jodi Jerich and lobbyist Lori Lustig, to plug their phones into their computers to make copies of text messages, Jerich told our reporter today.
The back-up work is voluntary, and would be done every two weeks or so. Commissioners will use a cable to connect their phones to their computers, and create a copy of all their texts, which will be stored on their computers. Jerich said she started researching ways to maintain texts a few months ago, after it became clear that the only place a text is immediately saved is on the phone. Jerich said she actually found software that works like a phone app and automatically copies texts into email.
That app doesn’t have a lag in uploading text messages but it requires a newer version of Microsoft Office, which the commission doesn’t yet have. Jerich said the Corp Comm is in the process of migrating to newer versions of Microsoft Office, but she wants to have something in place in the meantime. “It’s not the best solution, but this is what we could use right now until we upgrade,” Jerich said.
All five commissioners are in Washington, DC for a conference this week, so Jerich has only spoken generally with them about options for backing up text messages on their phones. She sent the commissioners an email yesterday explaining how the software will work, and she asked them to make appointments with IT staff to walk them through the process. Jerich said she would prefer that commissioners set up a routine schedule with IT staff (maybe every two weeks or every month) to upload their text messages.
and under the YS heading of "Common Sense works, too"
Meanwhile, Commissioner Doug Little has already established a policy to govern the use of texts and emails in his office: No business with any individual associated with a regulated entity will be conducted via text message. Little’s policy, which was formalized in June, also says “under no circumstances” will official commission business be conducted on personal cell phones and emails.
He emphasized to his staff that this prohibition extends to text messages exchanged on personal mediums. “By the same token, I indicated that no personal business should be conducted on Commission-owned devices,” Little said in a letter to Jerich. Little and his staffers, policy adviser Matt Rowell and executive aide Shannon Whiteaker, have commission-issued cell phones.
Additionally, Rowell and Little have commission-issued laptops. Little says he has availed of commission-issued phones for his office in order to “eliminate, to the extent possible, any need to conduct any Commission related activity from any personal device or personal email account.” Any communications with anybody associated with regulated entities must also be done via commission email, Little said, adding, “I hope this provides clarification and insures that proper records will be maintained and that there is full transparency on any and all electronic communications from this office."
Now, it appears the Yellow Sheet reporters are proud of themselves for suggesting that what Little did was "common sense." But think about it. This is 2015. Arizona state agencies have been using email and cell phones for more than 20 years. Why would Mr. Little even have waited until June? He took office at the beginning of January. IF common sense were in play in this situation, why the hell did ANYONE even have to do ANY of these policy implementation steps... again, in 2015?!

In 2014, a Harvard University study found Arizona to be the MOST CORRUPT state government in the country.

With a dedicated news enterprise publishing the Arizona Capitol Times weekly (or, is "weakly" a more apt descriptor?) and the Yellow Sheet five times/week, one might hope that a FREE PRESS would hold state government officials' feet to the fire to demand integrity and accountability.

This situation demonstrates the abject failure of that enterprise to do anything but facilitate the corruption. And the state's largest newspaper, the Arizona Republic, with a full-time, dedicated reporter "covering" the corp comm, doesn't do ANY better. Yesterday, Republic business editor Kathy Tulumello wrote up what in religious commentary would be considered an apology.
Public records, including daily calendars, e-mails, memos, reports — and now potentially text messages — provide an essential guide to the debate over important public matters.
Randazzo routinely requests this information for review. It has been an essential element in his comprehensive coverage of solar's future in Arizona. And in his oversight of the commission, APS and Salt River Project.
IF Randazzo/the Republic's coverage was comprehensive, he would have been asking the hard questions and reporting on the answers. He doesn't have the chops for that kind of coverage. But he's good at taking cheap shots at Democratic former commissioners and covering Bob Stump's bee-hind on Twitter.

Anyway, shouldn't we be able to expect legitimate journalists to report with enough insight and savvy to make some headway in undermining the legal and illegal corruption in our state government?

In the interest of brevity, I'll save more nitpicking on Tulumello's apology for another day.

-----

Netroots Nation '15 begins Thursday morning. I will live tweet some as well as posting a couple of times to this blog.

Highlights will include a Friday morning keynote speech by Elizabeth Warren and a Saturday morning town hall featuring Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley. Both of those events will be live streamed. Details at the conference website.

It would be nice if Hillary would grace us with her presence, but that doesn't appear to be in the cards for this week.

By popular demand, you are invited to #FeeltheBern on Saturday evening at the Phoenix Convention Center. Initially, local Sanders supporters wanted to arrange for Bernie to visit with supporters after the Saturday morning town hall. That has ballooned to more RSVPs than the first venue, Comerica Theatre, could hold. Arrangements were then made to hold an evening rally at the convention center. PLEASE RSVP and join us then.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Open Letter to the Arizona Corporation Commission and Arizona Public Service Company UPDATED 3:15am 7-11-15

Dear Commissioners and APS:

I am writing to comment on the ongoing and dismaying news from the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC). This letter is also directed to Arizona Public Service, in particular its lobbyists, lawyers and regulatory specialists.

The current drama pretends there is an actual issue as to whether a Corporation Commissioner can ask a utility whether it spent money on a Commissioner’s election. [see notes at end of this blog post] Of course the Commission can ask APS how much money it spent on Commission elections. It’s stunning that not one of the five sitting Commissioners dares to ask APS that question.

The July 7, 2015 YS item titled The Power of the Regulator [excerpted below] turns itself inside out to explain why ACC regulators do not have this authority.

Commissioner Bob Burns, who at one time had the courage to ask APS how much it spent on anti-solar publicity, suddenly has cold feet. Could it be because APS spent money on Commissioner Bob Burns’ election? Could it be that APS would again spend money on Commissioner Burns, provided he does not ask difficult questions?

Back in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, then-Commissioner Renz Jennings forced APS to open its books. Despite the YS’ tortured logic, the ACC clearly has the power to ask APS what it, ahem, spent on ACC elections.

The hypocrisy and disconnect are jaw-dropping as APS, Salt River Project (SRP) and Tucson Electric Power (TEP) pull out all the stops to slow or kill rooftop solar and get rid of the energy efficiency standard. Arizona rated a lousy 8th in U.S. solar installations in the third quarter of 2014, behind the “sunny” states of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Regulatory capture in Arizona is in-your-face obvious. Now that the “free market” favors solar, they don’t want solar to be too free. APS and its bought and paid for "regulators" clearly believe it's better to send $2-billion-plus out of state each year to buy coal and natural gas.

So it goes in climate-denying, solar-bashing Arizona.

Unfortunately, this is happening in many other states, not just Arizona. Duke Energy, which funds Arizona State University’s Utility of the Future, is dominant in three of the four states in the U.S. that have still outlawed “no-money-down” (also called third party) solar.

One is Florida, the Sunshine State, which has virtually no solar. Another is North Carolina, where Duke Energy is trying to kill the existing wholesale solar market, keep third party sales illegal and crush the current Renewable Energy and Efficiency Portfolio Standard. These anti-solar bills are being pushed by former Duke Energy employee and current North Carolina State Representative Mike Hager.

On the question of demanding APS disclose its political spending, the YS quotes Corporation Commissioners saying “the future is all that matters.”

I couldn't agree more. Well, on the fact that we need to take charge of what we are doing to our home planet anyway. Unfortunately, today’s actions – refusing to shut down some of the dirtiest power plants in the U.S. (like the Navajo Generating Station), ignoring and downplaying the many benefits of solar, choosing which regulators APS will allow to be “elected” with lots of ratepayer generated campaign money – do not bode well for the future.

The time to dig a well is before you are thirsty. Of course, regarding water, this is playing out in living color in California.

Where solar is not suppressed by incumbent utilities, the economic benefit to those states is huge. In North Carolina, solar tax credits have generated $1.54 in state revenue for every $1.00 credit given. And every $1.00 spent on solar tax credits has paid back ten-to-twenty times more in economic activity. Yet, Duke Energy is working overtime to kill solar’s expansion.

North Carolina’s current Governor, Pat McCrory, worked for Duke Energy for more than 25 years. And guess who put a lot of money into McCrory’s campaigns? McCrory has since made key cabinet appointments from long-time Duke executives with government watchdogs warning of unprecedented conflicts of interest in state government, most shamelessly on the NC utilities commission.

APS, Duke Energy, Salt River Project, Tucson Electric Power, the Edison Electric Institute and many U.S. utilities currently suffer from the same fate: solar can eat their lunch because a small drop in sales results in a much larger reduction in profits. In an era when few were paying attention, utilities built far too many big power plants. Now they want to keep making a 10% yearly rate of return on these $1-billion-plus power plants – which doesn’t include fuel costs or all the costs of pollution clean-up, which are enormous. (In the case of nuclear, each new plant now costs $10 billion.)

Utilities don’t appear to care about climate change, or the self-destruction of burning coal to make electricity for air conditioning.

Every ton of coal burned creates 2.8 tons of the powerful greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. Thus elevating the need for more, um, air conditioning. Cha-ching, cha-ching go the utilities’ cash registers, while roads literally melt, rivers and lakes dry up, and forests go up in flames.

Never mind that coal plants in Arizona could be easily and cheaply replaced with solar and wind, or that Arizona has some of the oldest, dirtiest coal plants in the Western United States.

In closing: just days ago, I received an email from ACC attorneys asking for permission to access to my emails and text messages (on taxpayer-funded devices from when I served with Commissioner Newman). I told them I believe all my emails and texts should be public record. I understood then, and continue to believe now, that anything I wrote using my taxpayer-paid phone or computer was public record.

I find it truly disturbing that the ACC has made such poor decisions about coal, solar and electricity; that Arizonans are ill-served by arrogant and devious utilities; and that sitting Commissioners have benefited from APS’ dark money.

Arizona’s solar future, once so bright, at least for the moment, is dimmed by captured regulators.

Nancy LaPlaca, J.D., served as Policy Advisor to Commissioner Paul Newman from 2009-2013. She currently is Senior Energy Analyst at www.ncwarn.org, working on climate and energy policy.

-----

From the July 7, 2015 Yellow Sheet Report: (paragraph divisions added for readability)

Two years ago, [Commissioner Bob] Burns compelled APS, TEP and other regulated utilities to provide a full accounting of how much they had spent on PR and lobbying efforts over net metering. He extended the same invitation to solar providers, which the commission doesn’t regulate (YS, 10/30/13). 

As a result, the public learned that, by November 2013, APS had spent $3.7 million while rooftop had forked out $336,000 in the net metering fight. Burns’ request was made as commissioners were preparing to rule on a policy decision. But questions remain about this power: Can a commissioner ask APS or other regulated utilities for information while there is no policy decision before the commission? And can a commissioner compel a regulated utility to account for its election-related spending, particularly in the commission races, if those funds came from the company’s profits? 

Finally, can a commissioner do it alone without the express backing of the commission’s majority? The powers to inspect a regulated company’s books stem from Section 4, Article 15 of the Arizona Constitution, and ARS 40-241, which both define the powers of the Corp Comm. The constitutional provision says the commission and “the several members thereof” have the authority “to inspect and investigate the property, books, papers, business, methods, and affairs” of publicly traded corporations and regulated utilities. Additionally, the Corp Comm and its members are vested with court powers to compel witness attendance or issue subpoenas. 

This broad authority is reflected in ARS 40-241, which says the commission and “each commissioner” have the authority to, “at any time, inspect the accounts, books, papers and documents of any public service corporation.” A source who is familiar with the Corp Comm said one legal theory is that these powers ultimately emanate from Section 3, Article 15 of the Constitution, which gives the Corp Comm the sole authority to set “just and reasonable rates.” Under this theory, the Corp Comm may inspect regulated companies’ accounts but only insofar as they relate to the setting of rates. 

In short, the request for information has to have a direct tie to an ongoing rate case or pending policy decision before the commission. Rate-setting is based on the cost of delivering a service (in this case, electricity) plus a return of return. In practice, it falls on the regulated utility to show what the cost is of running its service, which it is entitled to recover. But any profits gained by the utility from its return of return are, under this theory, no longer part of the rate-setting scheme. 

Under this view, the Corp Comm has no control or influence over how a utility spends or deploys its profits. So, if Pinnacle West uses its profits to influence the Corp Comm races, commissioners presumably could not compel the disclosure of that spending. But the source also noted that there’s nothing explicitly written in either the Arizona Constitution or in statutes that limit the commission’s inspection or subpoena powers by tying it to a rate case or a pending policy decision. Additionally, a commissioner could very well insist that the authority to inspect the books of a regulated utility can be made at any time. 

-----

The Yellow Sheet Report is a gossip publication that bends the rules of journalism by, among other things, making claims and citing sources that it refuses to disclose. In this case, it sets forth an argument that comes from "a source with knowledge of the" ACC but clearly runs counter to the history of the Arizona Constitution which established the commission to protect the PEOPLE from heavy-handed exploitation by corporate interests. 

Perhaps because the YS audience is largely made up of plutocratic interests that form what wants to be and possibly IS an invisible shadow state government, that publication is not shy about promoting an interpretation of ACC authority that has neither been validated by any court of law nor by a plain reading of the text.

Given the power of suggestion, do the editors and writers of the YS explicitly intend to embolden readers to challenge the law and conduct themselves contrary to the best interests of ratepayers and citizens?

UPDATE               UPDATE               UPDATE               UPDATE

Doesn't it strike you as peculiar that the administrative head of the Arizona Corporation Commission needs to ASK permission, of a person who has not worked there for the last two and a half years, to access emails and text messages?

What kind of government agency doesn't establish from the START of employment and the beginning of an elected commissioner's term that ALL messages on any taxpayer-funded or paid for device is PUBLIC RECORD and must be preserved?

How long ago was it that ACC outside counsel David Cantelme was telling us that text messages don't have to be preserved? Yet, the ACC has asked a former policy advisor, who left ACC employ in January 2013, for permission to access text messages and email?

Why the contradiction? Might Cantelme have lied to the media and to counsel for the Checks and Balances Project? Just sayin'.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Who the hell is Blake Morlock, anyway?

In an op-ed published a couple of days ago on the Tucson Sentinel, Blake Morlock proclaims that he's going to tell you what the Devil won't. I really don't know what the hell Morlock was trying to convey by invoking the devil, but then again, his op-ed was also both (completely) factually inaccurate and incoherent.

Since Sentinel publisher Dylan Smith declined to publish this rebuttal, and since it's really too long for a simple comment to Morlock's screed, I have no choice but to post it here. My apologies to Smith, who I genuinely respect. But I'm most surprised that he would allow something so detached from reality to be published on his website. Without further ado.

-----

Apparently, Blake Morlock (Redistricting win doesn’t mask how IRC failed in state races, June 29) was champing at the bit to burst the bubble of Arizona Democrats. At least for those who cheer the recent Supreme Court victory in Arizona Legislature v Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. But in his apparent thesis, that “The Arizona Legislature is in troubbbllle ... you just sued the people of the state of Arizona and lost. Oh man. This is going to get bad....” He makes nonsensical leaps outside of any logical or rational framework.

Morlock declared, “Wait. Wait. It won’t. It won’t and I will tell you why.” He says the AIRC “blew it. They gaffed it. They ganked it. They shanked it and hardly anyone has said a word about it.”

Morlock’s conclusion? “Giving Kyrsten Sinema a solid shot at a seat in Congress was done at the expense of actual competitive districts” for the state legislature. Was this guy even IN Arizona in 2011/2012?

Not one bit of Morlock’s fantastical, highly imaginative story has any connection to either the mission of the AIRC or the process as it took played out.

If he wanted to say he’s disappointed that the legislative district map ended up not being as competitive as he would like it, he could have done that. And I would have wholeheartedly agreed. But BLAMING the AIRC for woes of the Arizona Democratic Party can only be done if one didn’t observe the 2011 independent redistricting cycle.

In this case, one of the most important things that needs to be understood by Arizona voters is that the legislative district map was NOT dependent in ANY way on the final Congressional map. The two processes were conducted by the same people but were otherwise mutually exclusive. If Mr. Morlock doesn’t “get it” I’d be happy to meet over coffee to help him understand.

I can only wonder where Morlock was when I was observing the interaction of the commissioners, AIRC staff or of the public in any of the meetings. All map drawing took place fully in the open... in open meetings attended and observed by the public and by journalists. I was there. I documented the process extensively, writing well more than 400 blog posts directly on the subject from December 2010 until now. From when commissioner hopefuls were first screened to when the maps were approved by the AIRC, submitted to the Department of Justice for preclearance and then subjected to vitriolic court challenges.

His musings about whether “Mathis made a deal to work with commission Democrats on the House side and Republicans to lock in the Legislature...” are beyond absurd and at least borderline slanderous. Anyone who observed the process knows that there was no such back room dealings. Republicans on the commission have accused Mathis of making deals with the Democrats but nothing in the record of the proceedings or any reportage on it even comes close to the scenarios that flowed from Morlock’s imagination, especially regarding deals with Republicans.

Currently, the Arizona Democratic Party is rudderless. I’ll grant him that. But that’s not the case with the Maricopa County or Pima County Democrats. Sure, it’s frustrating for anyone who cares. But Morlock’s fiction exercise simply has no basis in reality. If he wants to prescribe solutions for the Arizona Democratic Party, go for it. But a hair on fire op-ed blaming the Independent Redistricting Commission for ADP’s problems is nowhere near the target, let alone the bull’s eye.

I’m all for using the kind of picturesque language Morlock used to communicate his perspective. If only he would have been talking about what actually took place.

To put Morlock’s screed in perspective, I’d compare journalist Gail Sheehy’s memoir Daring: My Passages to the highly hyped Last Magazine, written by the late Michael Hastings and published posthumously.

Sheehy’s prose brings ideas and events to life. In the 1990s, her Pathfinders provided inspiration to me as a budding writer. Hastings, killed in a fiery crash of his new, high-tech automobile, was also a daring journalist. Recklessly daring. His Last Magazine reflected that recklessness and detachment from reality.

One reader’s Amazon.com review of Hastings’ book provides an apt description. “Michael Hastings was a complicated man and a true gonzo reporter. Lurking on his desktop at the time of his tragic death was, apparently, this book. It should have stayed on the laptop. Perhaps with a great deal of shaping, it might have been a profane but insightful view of futile combat situations or a keen insider satire about the mix of politics, careerism, and status-seeking that has invaded big-time journalism. As it is, the book has no bite, just a lot of nasty pages of obscene ramblings and a nonsensical 'plot', long on stream-of-consciousness, short on revelations or even clear-minded critique. I would rather have rewound time and not read this book, and left my memory of Hastings’ estimable writing at a much better place.

The tone of that review fully reflects my observations about Morlock’s piece, except, thankfully, Morlock has not and hopefully will not meet with any tragedy like Hastings.