Monday, September 30, 2019

Impeaching 45 at this Moment May Actually Prevent a Second Civil War

It is vitally important to our country that the House impeach Donald Trump.

I've said that for more than a year. Here's something a law professor who has studied the history of the US Constitution recently wrote about the question of impeachment.

In the article dated September 26, 2019 Clark D Cunningham, professor and law & ethics chair at Georgia State University wrote,
As Congress moves toward a possible formal impeachment of President Donald Trump, they should consider words spoken at the Constitutional Convention, when the Founders explained that impeachment was intended to have many important purposes, not just removing a president from office.
A critical debate took place on July 20, 1787, which resulted in adding the impeachment clause to the U.S. Constitution. Benjamin Franklin, the oldest and probably wisest delegate at the Convention, said that when the president falls under suspicion, a “regular and peaceable inquiry” is needed.
In my work as a law professor studying original texts about the U.S. Constitution, I’ve found statements made at the Constitutional Convention explaining that the Founders viewed impeachment as a regular practice with three purposes:
  • To remind both the country and the president that he is not above the law
  • To deter abuses of power
  • To provide a fair and reliable method to resolve suspicions about misconduct.
The Convention delegates repeatedly agreed with the assertion by George Mason of Virginia, that “no point is of more importance … than the right of impeachment” because no one is “above justice.”
Cunningham expanded on those point as he continued the column. But to the point of whether Trump and his supporters' obvious incitement of violence (i.e. a second civil war), the professor cites Benjamin Franklin:

Good for the president and the country
Benjamin Franklin told his fellow delegates the story of a recent dispute that had greatly troubled the Dutch Republic.
One of the Dutch leaders, William V, the Prince of Orange, was suspected to have secretly sabotaged a critical alliance with France. The Dutch had no impeachment process and thus no way to conduct “a regular examination” of these allegations. These suspicions mounted, giving rise to “to the most violent animosities & contentions.”
The moral to Franklin’s story? If Prince William had “been impeachable, a regular & peaceable inquiry would have taken place.” The prince would, “if guilty, have been duly punished — if innocent, restored to the confidence of the public.”
Franklin concluded that impeachment was a process that could be “favorable” to the president, saying it is the best way to provide for “the regular punishment of the Executive when his misconduct should deserve it and for his honorable acquittal when he should be unjustly accused.”

All of this makes me wonder. Actually having Hillary Clinton inaugurated in January 2017 would have made the subsequent events turn out much differently than they have. But the political polarization would almost certainly have continued to rise nevertheless.

Not wanting to suffer ongoing failures of imagination, I now call your attention to one of the master storytellers of our age, Stephen King. He has called his alternative history novel, 11.22.63 his magnum opus. If you're not familiar with the novel or the Hulu mini-series based on the novel, click the link for 11.22.63 to get a synopsis of it.

My ultimate point? While Trump may want and may try to incite civil war type violence, perhaps in the grand scheme of things his having become president, and having failed so spectacularly, will save us from all out civil war.

And he HAS failed spectacularly, evaluating the net results, in doing anything good for the United States. His only success has been to subvert the Founders' intent as articulated in the Preamble to the Constitution.
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to [ALL of] ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


On April 24 this, I posted that I believed then (and I still do) that Trump will be impeached.

This morning, I re-read the post and re-viewed the video clip of Lawrence O'Donnell pointing out much of what many are now saying (including a handful of GOP elected officials, or former elected officials) that whether or not the House impeaches and the Senate convicts has become a point of principle.

Last week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi pulled the trigger on the starting gun (starting guns don't fire actual bullets) for an official impeachment investigation. Ending speculation on whether the Senate will pull another Merrick Garland, today, Mitch McConnell stated that in the event the House does approve Articles of Impeachment, he will have no choice but to convene the requisite trial.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Failure of Imagination

Don't worry, it obviously wasn't just your imagination but everybody else's too.

On Hulu, I have watched all but the last two episodes of the Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Joan Watson murder mystery Elementary. I've always tried to figure out whodunit. Rarely have I succeeded (maybe only once). Not only is each story very well written, with numerous possible culprits, but the red herrings presented are exquisite and difficult to see through until close to the end.

Recently, I was watching late at night and fell asleep before the end of an episode. The next day, I went to finish that one. Starting where I turned it off the night before, I realized that I had no idea what was going on at the time. So, I went back to where I started to doze. It all made sense and I could see how it was obvious -- without considering the red herring distractions -- who committed the murder. I believe the failure of imagination leading up to Congress (and mainstream American media) becoming aware of the Whistleblower Complaint fits that same pattern.


The following report was published by non-profit news outlet ProPublica this morning (without the YouTube video).

Trump’s Ukraine Plotting Has Been Happening in Plain Sight. So Why Didn’t We See It?

It’s not just that there’s a lot to pay attention to.

by Eric Umansky Sept. 27, 11:09 a.m. EDT

Try for a moment to imagine the world as it was a week ago. Before we knew that President Donald Trump put the squeeze on another country to investigate his political opponent, before we knew he wanted to involve the attorney general, or that aid may have been held up in the plotting.

Except, we did know each of those things. The president hasn’t been quiet about what he’s up to. And while we didn’t know many details, much of the hanky-panky has been happening right before our eyes.

Let’s review a few facts.

The president urged an investigation into Ukraine and Democrats back in 2017. He didn’t do it in a secret meeting. He tweeted.
Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign - "quietly working to boost Clinton." So where is the investigation A.G. @seanhannity— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017
Trump and his allies theorized that Ukrainians had engaged in a kind of bank shot: They suspected Ukrainians of plotting to help Hillary Clinton by manufacturing evidence against Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort. (There’s no evidence to support that.)

Trump brought up the theory again this April, and he floated getting the Attorney General involved. “This concept of Ukraine, they’ve been talking about it actually for a long time,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “I would certainly defer to the attorney general and we’ll see what he says about it.”

The next month, The New York Times reported that Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, was planning to visit Ukraine to pressure the government to investigate those who helped catch Manafort and to dig into former Vice President Joe Biden.

BuzzFeed and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project followed up in July with an even more detailed story on how Giuliani was pushing Ukraine “to discredit the president’s rivals.”

Giuliani was straightforward. “We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation,” he told the Times. Giuliani added that, of course, Trump knew about it. “My only client is the president of the United States,” he said. “He’s the one I have an obligation to report to, tell him what happened.”

The next day, Politico interviewed Trump. The president said he had spoken to Giuliani “very briefly” about his plans to pressure Ukraine. “He’s involved with a number of people that are looking into the whole thing because a lot of very bad, a lot of very bad things took place prior to the election.”

Politico asked Trump whether he would order Attorney General Bill Barr to investigate Biden’s son work in Ukraine. “Well, I haven’t spoken to him about it. But certainly it is a very big issue and we’ll see what happens,” Trump said, later adding, “Certainly, it would be an appropriate thing to speak about.”

Next came the July call between the president and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. We didn’t know the details of it at the time, but there were hints for those closely following. Here’s a snippet from Ukraine’s official summary of the call:
Donald Trump is convinced that the new Ukrainian government will be able to quickly improve image of Ukraine, complete investigation of corruption cases, which inhibited the interaction between Ukraine and the USA.
By that point, of course, Trump had already publicly discussed what exact “corruption” he wanted Ukraine to investigate. A month later, Politico reported that Trump had ordered the delay of aid to Ukraine.

The push to investigate a political opponent’s family. The prospect of using aid as a cudgel. It was all in the air. Vice President Mike Pence was asked directly about it at the beginning of September. “Can you assure Ukraine that the hold-up of that money has absolutely nothing to do with efforts, including by Rudy Giuliani, to try to dig up dirt on the Biden family?” a reporter asked Pence during his visit to Warsaw.

Pence didn’t give a clear answer. But he did say, “As President Trump had me make clear, we have great concerns about issues of corruption.”

The Washington Post began to put it all together a few days later, on Sept. 5: Trump “is attempting to force Mr. Zelensky to intervene in the 2020 U.S. presidential election by launching an investigation of the leading Democratic candidate, Joe Biden.”

That didn’t run on the front page, or anywhere on the news pages at all. It was in the third paragraph of an unsigned editorial.

The point of all this isn’t that we knew exactly what was going on. We didn’t. The transcript of the call and the whistleblower’s complaint have been critical.

But the urgency for digging was clear. Some reporters were on the case. So why wasn’t more attention paid?

There’s the avalanche of news, scandal and outrage. Many of them have facts that are clear and easy to grasp. We have to make choices.

But there’s something else, too. Two weeks after the 2016 election, my colleague Jesse Eisinger and I recorded a podcast [I attempted to find this podcast. The ProPublica article, headlined "How Journalists Need to Begin Imagining the Unimaginable" IS there, but the podcast is not there. So, I'm including a 14:40 long YouTube with Gessen at the end of this post and will update this note if the podcast becomes available.] with Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen. We discussed how journalists should think about covering the Trump administration. She had a warning. If you dismiss something because it seems unimaginable, that’s a mistake.

It’s a failure of imagination.

Many years ago, I wrote about another scandal: the revelations about torture of detainees in U.S. custody. The fact that the U.S. was abusing detainees had been reported. It only became recognized as a scandal after the Abu Ghraib photos were published.

This time, it was a phone call. In both cases, the dots were there. But we couldn’t quite wrap our heads around it. Not just the facts of it, but the reality of it.

With torture, we couldn’t grasp that the U.S. government would treat detainees the way the photos eventually showed it did. And the same with Ukraine. “A president shaking down another country to investigate his opponent? It can’t be THAT!”

Research assistance by Katie Zavadski, Katherine Sullivan and Alice Wilder.

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Trump's Ukraine call, what we know so far

Key from the CNN report above is the fact that the transcript (appears to be a "near complete transcript") is NOT a verbatim depiction of the actual call. This means that it was edited by WH officials before release.

From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — President Trump repeatedly pressured the president of Ukraine for cooperation with his political agenda in a July 25 call, urging his counterpart to start corruption investigations while stressing the United States’ role in military assistance for Kiev.
In a reconstruction of the call released by the White House, Mr. Trump urged President Volodymyr Zelensky to work with Attorney General William P. Barr on potential corruption investigations connected to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Democratic rival, and an unsubstantiated theory about stolen Democratic emails in 2016.
Mr. Zelensky reacted to Mr. Trump’s assertion that the United States had “done a lot for Ukraine” by saying that his country was ready to purchase Javelin anti-tank missiles from the United States for its long-running war against Russian-backed separatists in the country’s east.
I would like you to do us a favor though,” Mr. Trump responded, several times pressing Mr. Zelensky to use Mr. Barr’s help in opening investigations of Mr. Biden and his family and of a company involved in the beginnings of the F.B.I. inquiry of Russia’s 2016 election interference. [...]
The five-page “memorandum of telephone conversation” distributed by the White House includes a cautionary note indicating that it was “not a verbatim transcript” but instead was based on “notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty officers” and national security staff. But senior administration officials said voice recognition software was used in preparing the document which included long, direct quotations. [...]
In the days before the memorandum of conversation was released, news reports revealed that Mr. Trump used the call in July to pressure Mr. Zelensky for an investigation about Mr. Biden’s actions on behalf of his son Hunter Biden’s work with a business in Ukraine.

From the CBSN video:
We know that aid to Ukraine was held up. From the President's own mouth, that he spoke to the Ukrainian president, and he spoke about corruption, and the Bidens, the bridge is the quid pro quo... she (Speaker Pelosi) is saying it doesn't matter.
HuffPost reported on Monday insight from Fox News analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano,

Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano warned on Monday that revelations of President Donald Trump’s alleged requests for election help from Ukraine are far more damning than any of the other scandals that have plagued his administration.
“I think this is the most serious charge against the president, far more serious than what Bob Mueller dug or dragged up against him, if there was a quid pro quo,” Napolitano, a judge and the network’s senior judicial analyst, said Monday, referring to the former special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.
According to The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, in an August whistleblower complaint, a member of the intelligence community flagged a July 25 phone call from Trump to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whom Trump allegedly asked several times to assist his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani with an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son.
The same month, U.S. military aid was being withheld from Ukraine, though the decision was made in early July, The New York Times reported.
Even if Trump’s conversation with Zelensky made no explicit reference to a deal, Napolitano argued it may have been implicit.
“If you are the President of the United States and you are making a conversation that you know your intelligence community is listening to, of course you’re not going to articulate a quid pro quo,” he said. “You’ll just make the quid pro quo happen.”
THAT is why, as Pelosi indicated (see the CBSN video, at the 2:00 mark) there is NO requirement that there be a quid pro quo in the conversation.

What this boils down to is that Trump is toast. I've been saying so for more than a year. 20th Century history (of the two most high profile Fascist dictators of the WWII era, Hitler and Mussolini) coupled with social and zoological research on so-called alpha males (bullies who try to claim alpha male status) make it crystal clear that Trump's "shelf life" as occupant of the American White House can only be extremely limited.

Monday, September 23, 2019

How DARE you: Greta Thunberg addressed the UN Climate Action Summit today


Then there was the time when Trump passed Greta in the hall at the UN (same day) as her speech. Is anyone surprised that he didn't acknowledge the SHERO in the room?

And from last Friday, posted by the UK news outlet, The Guardian,
10-year-old Parker recites his poem at a Climate Strike rally:

Sunday, September 22, 2019

40 concise, salient reasons Trump is #UNFIT and must be Impeached Now

Donald Trump vs. the United States of America; Just the facts, in 40 sentences.

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist
New York Times
September 22, 2019

Sometimes it’s worth stepping back to look at the full picture.

He has pressured a foreign leader to interfere in the 2020 American presidential election.

He urged a foreign country to intervene in the 2016 presidential election.

He divulged classified information to foreign officials.

He publicly undermined American intelligence agents while standing next to a hostile foreign autocrat.

He hired a national security adviser whom he knew had secretly worked as a foreign lobbyist.

He encourages foreign leaders to enrich him and his family by staying at his hotels.

He genuflects to murderous dictators.

He has alienated America’s closest allies.

He lied to the American people about his company’s business dealings in Russia.

He tells new lies virtually every week — about the economy, voter fraud, even the weather.

He spends hours on end watching television and days on end staying at resorts.

He often declines to read briefing books or perform other basic functions of a president’s job.

He has aides, as well as members of his own party in Congress, who mock him behind his back as unfit for office.

He has repeatedly denigrated a deceased United States senator who was a war hero.

He insulted a Gold Star family — the survivors of American troops killed in action.

He described a former first lady, not long after she died, as “nasty.”

He described white supremacists as “some very fine people.”

He told four women of color, all citizens and members of Congress, to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”

He made a joke about Pocahontas during a ceremony honoring Native American World War II veterans.

He launched his political career by falsely claiming that the first black president was not really American.

He launched his presidential campaign by describing Mexicans as “rapists.”

He has described women, variously, as “a dog,” “a pig” and “horseface,” as well as “bleeding badly from a facelift” and having “blood coming out of her wherever.”

He has been accused of sexual assault or misconduct by multiple women.

He enthusiastically campaigned for a Senate candidate who was accused of molesting multiple teenage girls.

He waved around his arms, while giving a speech, to ridicule a physically disabled person.

He has encouraged his supporters to commit violence against his political opponents.

He has called for his opponents and critics to be investigated and jailed.

He uses a phrase popular with dictators — “the enemy of the people” — to describe journalists.

He attempts to undermine any independent source of information that he does not like, including judges, scientists, journalists, election officials, the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the Congressional Budget Office and the National Weather Service.

He has tried to harass the chairman of the Federal Reserve into lowering interest rates.

He said that a judge could not be objective because of his Mexican heritage.

He obstructed justice by trying to influence an investigation into his presidential campaign.

He violated federal law by directing his lawyer to pay $280,000 in hush money to cover up two apparent extramarital affairs.

He made his fortune partly through wide-scale financial fraud.

He has refused to release his tax returns.

He falsely accused his predecessor of wiretapping him.

He claimed that federal law-enforcement agents and prosecutors regularly fabricated evidence, thereby damaging the credibility of criminal investigations across the country.

He has ordered children to be physically separated from their parents.

He has suggested that America is no different from or better than Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

He has called America a “hellhole.”

He is the president of the United States, and he is a threat to virtually everything that the United States should stand for.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

In Phoenix it was much like many other places around the world.

From in Phoenix:

Here are some pics from September 20, 2019 Youth Climate Strikes throughout the world. Many of the signs shown were similar to those at the Arizona Capitol today.

Chapel Hill, NC

Sydney, Australia 

San Francisco, CA

 Sydney, Australia

Tokyo, Japan

The Arizona Eagletarian marched in Phoenix from the city hall to the Capitol. In the spirit of climate strike, I took the Light Rail from Tempe/Mesa with a friend to reach the march. However, lamentably, I left my phone (camera) in the car so I could not capture pics on my own on Friday.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Biden's Opposition to Medicare for All: It's ALL about the Billionaires, Baby!

This post was first published at

[Editor’s (of Note – this is a guest post by a friend of ours here at the Emptywheel Blog, Bob Lord. Bob is a longtime tax and finance attorney with some very salient thoughts on why the centrist Democrats are pushing back so hard on Medicare For All. One other note, we here at Emptywheel have purposefully not engaged on behalf of any particular candidate in the primary process, but the issues in play are fair game.]

[(Arizona Eagletarian) Editor's Note -- This blog HAS purposely engaged on behalf of a particular candidate in the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary and does not regret doing so]

Joe Biden has lots of reasons why he opposes the Medicare for All plan favored by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. [or Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders]
The cost runs too high, the former vice-president tells us. People will have to give up their private health insurance. People will lose the right to choose their health insurance provider.
The list goes on, but do these reasons reflect Biden’s actual worries? Surely, he’s seen the studies that show Medicare for All would drive costs down, not up, as removing health insurance company profits and administrative costs from American health care totally changes the system’s accounting dynamics. Yes, an expanded Medicare would require administrative expenses, but nowhere close to the expenses that our current system requires.
Biden also knows Americans would welcome the chance to swap their private health insurance for Medicare. Don’t believe me? Speak to someone between the ages of 60 and 64 who’s relatively healthy. Ten to one she has her fingers crossed hoping to make it to age 65 without a major health challenge, so she can qualify for Medicare and never have to confront the insufficiency of her wonderful private insurance plan.
And very few Americans, we must keep in mind, choose their health insurance provider. Most of us get insurance through our employers. Employers choose the least expensive plan for all employees collectively, without regard to the needs and desires of individuals.
Given that Joe Biden’s stated reasons for opposing Medicare for All don’t pass the smell test, what could be the real reason for his opposition?
Could Biden simply be beholden to the health insurance industry and Big Pharma? Perhaps, but I suspect that something larger — the overall wealth of our wealthy — may be at play. After all, it’s not like health insurers and pharmaceutical companies are going to have his back come general election time.
Consider the difference between how Joe Biden, on the one hand, and Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren [Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders], on the other, view the billionaires and centimillionaires who make up America’s super rich. Sanders believes the greed of America’s billionaire class threatens the social fabric of our country and has proposed a significant increase in the federal estate tax on grand fortunes. Warren has proposed a 2 percent annual wealth tax on all fortunes in excess of $50 million.
Biden’s differences with Warren and Sanders go deep. He has assured his rich donors — at big-dollar fundraising events — that their lifestyles will not change if he’s elected. Biden, whose donor list includes at least 13 ten-digit fortunes, has made it clear that he doesn’t think billionaires bear any more responsibility for America’s woes than any of the rest of us.
Just this week, he voiced his opposition to policies that would make it harder to become a billionaire.
But why would billionaires and centimillionaires particularly care whether we have Medicare for All versus the Obamacare-with-a-public-option plan Biden favors?
To answer that question, consider the fundamental difference between Obamacare and Medicare for All: who pays. Under Obamacare, individuals pay for their health care, through the insurance premiums they pay and their out-of-pocket expenses for the charges their insurance policies don’t cover. The government subsidizes insurance for lower income Americans through Medicaid, but the bulk of health insurance costs are paid by individuals or their employers.
The public option, Biden’s proposed fix to Obamacare, won’t change any of this. Even if every American healthcare consumer chose the public option, putting the private health insurance industry out of business in the process, individuals still would be responsible for their own health care costs.
Medicare works differently. Under Medicare, the government insures healthcare costs directly. Individuals don’t pay premiums or co-pays. Instead, tax dollars fund the cost of the program.
All this means that the transition from Obamacare to Medicare for All would transfer the burden of health care costs from health care consumers, who share in costs based on how sick or healthy they happen to be, to taxpayers, who would share in costs based on their respective incomes and tax rates.
The great majority of Americans live their lives as both health care consumers and taxpayers. Under Medicare for All, they would see an elimination of both insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical costs. They would also see a tax increase, but ordinary Americans would save substantially more in health care costs than they’d pay in increased taxes.
But those billionaires and centimillionaires on Joe Biden’s donor list? Their tax increases would dwarf any savings they see in personal healthcare expense. Some could see seven figure tax increases.
Viewed through the billionaire lens, Biden’s loud opposition to Medicare for All makes distinct political sense. He needs billionaires to fund his White House aspirations [because Joe can't even come close to the grassroots fundraising power of either Warren or Sanders], which still drive him three decades out from his first presidential run in 1988. He’s not only convinced himself that his billionaire supporters pose no threat to our social fabric, he even seems to believe that any health care reform that puts the squeeze on billionaire fortunes does pose a threat.
All in all, a classic case of why ambition often blinds us. In a 2018 speech, just a sentence or two after saying the billionaires he’s courting aren’t a problem, Biden lamented that the income gap in America is yawning. [i.e. cavernous]
What Biden’s ambition won’t let him see: Billionaires don’t exist in isolation. We have approximately 700 billionaires today in the United States. We have a larger number of half-billionaires and a still larger deep-pocket cohort of centimillionaires. And so on. Which leaves our top 1 percent controlling close to half the country’s wealth and the country with an income gap that Biden openly recognizes is “yawning [cavernous]” and, obviously, a problem.
In other words, those billionaires Biden’s won’t let himself see as a worry really are inseparable from the yawning [cavernous] income gap that he knows is a problem.
Sanders and Warren [Warren and Sanders], by comparison, are clear-eyed. They can see that when the gap is so yawning [cavernous] that treatable or preventable injuries and illnesses are killing Americans who can’t afford healthcare and bankrupting millions of others, the only answer is that society — through taxation — must assume the cost of healthcare. Other countries, like Canada, recognized this reality decades ago.
And when America’s billionaires, with Joe Biden as one of their many mouthpieces, stand in the way of that process because they don’t want their taxes to increase, their greed tears at the fabric of American society.
Joe Biden can’t see that. His two leading rivals [Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders] sure do.
[Robert J. Lord, a tax lawyer and former Congressional candidate, is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Bob previously served as an adjunct faculty member at the Arizona State University School of Law. Bob’s work focuses on the relationship of tax law to inequality. He contributes to both the website and to OtherWords, the Institute’s national syndicated editorial service. Bob also is a staff member at Blog For Arizona, a leading political blog in Arizona.]

Sen Warren was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

A couple of days ago, The Nation published a post by John Nichols about the Working Families Party's endorsement of Liz Warren and the inevitable that will follow,
A lot of progressive groups (and voters) have held off on making the Sanders-vs.-Warren choice. But they’ll face more and more pressure to decide how best to block Biden.
Even before the Working Families Party endorsed Elizabeth Warren, the labor-left organization that advocates for a more progressive Democratic politics had endorsed Elizabeth Warren. While the WFP’s decision to back the senator from Massachusetts for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination drew lots of attention Monday, the group first endorsed Warren in February 2015, when it called on the senator—as “the nation’s most powerful voice for working families”—to challenge front-runner Hillary Clinton for the party’s 2016 nomination. Warren chose not to run, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders stepped up. The WFP eventually backed his bid, with a December 2015 announcement from party leadership that “we’re standing with Bernie Sanders to build the political revolution and make our nation into one where every family can thrive.”
Now the WFP is again with Warren. That’s significant, as is the fact that it isn’t with Sanders. [...]
The WFP’s decision to endorse distinguished it from the majority of progressive groups and unions, which are waiting to make choices between Warren and Sanders, and the several other contenders who lay claim to the progressive mantle in 2020.
The article continues. One reason I mention it is because in 2015, I was calling for Warren to run, and was disappointed (then) that she didn't. I'm no longer disappointed that she didn't run in 2016.

I believe the timing for her message today is more... something. The expression that comes to mind is that it's always darkest right before the dawn.

We ARE on the cusp on a new day in America.

Anyway, please enjoy these two clips from The Late Show.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

About that Charter School achievement problem...

Today from the Grand Canyon Institute's research director, Dave Wells, Ph.D. sent out a summary of recent research:

Each year when AzMerit scores are published charter proponents celebrate the sector’s higher scores relative to district schools. While some charter schools excel, overall evidence does not support that charter schools perform better than district schools on an apples-to-apples comparison.
Jake Logan, President & CEO of the Arizona Charter Schools Association, along with Nina Rees, President & CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, recently highlighted the achievement of charters in Arizona in an opinion piece (link) in the Arizona Republic.
The Grand Canyon Institute, a public policy think tank, has published several policy papers on the financial practices of charter schools and their regulatory oversight. Its research has focused attention on how charters spend their taxpayer dollars, including how much is being invested in their classrooms.
In Arizona, district enrollment is flat and while charters have captured enrollment growth, which is a huge success for the sector.  At nearly 20 percent of Arizona’s total public school population, a greater percent of students enroll in charter schools here than in any other state.
That said, the actual achievement data isn’t as good as presented. To claim that charter students perform better than district students requires a student-level comparison. Comparing aggregate scores isn’t valid.
Yes, charter students in aggregate perform better than district students on the AzMerit but aggregate data can only be controlled for one variable, e.g., ethnicity. A valid comparison requires that multiple differences between students be controlled for. For example, if, as appears to be the case, the Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to come from families with higher incomes and are less likely to be English Language Learners then, of course, they would be expected to score higher than their district peers.
A better method is to look at the outcomes for district and charter students from a similar urban area with a set of demographic similarities and compare prior individual records of achievement on standardized tests. This allows for a virtually equivalent comparison of charter and district schools.
Once those adjustments are made, the charter sector underperforms compared to districts overall based on analyses by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO).
View the full report at the link at the top of the page, or in a PDF document here.

The Question Nobody Asked APS

The following op-ed, written by Court S. Rich, co-founder of Rose Law Group, first appeared in the Arizona Republic (and on September 12, 2019)
Opinion: Why did Arizona Public Service funnel money to support the son of a regulator when he ran for secretary of state? The Corporation Commission needs to ask.
What struck me most about the Arizona Corporation Commission’s questioning of APS CEO Don Brandt on Sept. 4 was not the way that APS predictably got away with sidestepping tough questions or the damning characterizations of APS’s political machine.
No, the thing that left me dumbfounded is the question that wasn’t asked.
In April, the Associated Press reported that documents turned over by APS in response to commission subpoenas confirmed that APS’ parent company, Pinnacle West, gave $5.8 million to the Free Enterprise Club which in turn spent about $450,000 of this money to support two candidates for the commission and $733,000 to aid the son of a sitting commissioner in his unsuccessful run for secretary of state.
This money was funneled through the Free Enterprise Club to shield its source [see OutlawDirtyMoney] and, despite wide speculation, APS refused to confirm that it was the source of this money until the disclosure this spring. To be clear, a regulated utility monopoly spent three-quarters of a million dollars in secret to support the campaign of the son of a sitting commissioner.
Why get into the secret funding game?
As far as we know, APS had not previously funded elections for public office, and it seems odd that its first foray into "dark money" campaigning would just so happen to be to support the son of a sitting commissioner.
APS obviously knew the person it was throwing its money behind in secret was related to a commissioner. The decision to, for the first time, play in an election in this manner had to be subject of intense scrutiny. APS knew there were risks if it got caught and the obvious question that everyone would ask is if this secretive expenditure were in exchange for favorable treatment from the regulator-father.
In fact, APS CEO-in waiting, Jeff Guldner, recognized the perils of playing politics. In late 2013 Guldner told The Arizona Republic, “Getting involved in commissioner elections? Unbelievably high risk.” That APS ultimately got involved in secret reveals that it knew there were risks if it were to get caught.
Nevertheless, after weighing the foolish risks, APS decided to make this investment and keep it secret for the better part of five years. In light of the risks and in light of the obvious perception of impropriety such a secret campaign would trigger, why did APS make the decision to funnel money to support its regulator’s son’s run for secretary of state?
This is the question that was not asked at the Sept. 4 hearing. This is the question that may never be answered if the commission doesn’t soon ask it.
A monopoly at least owes us answers
Imagine for a moment that the answer is, “We just really liked that guy for secretary of state.” That somewhere at APS, someone just really liked their regulator’s son so much for that office at that moment that it risked it all to secretly support him.
Now imagine that the person that made that decision, for that reason, still works at APS. Seems unlikely.
Many are simply unconcerned with getting an answer to this question or dismiss it as old news. To these critics I say that a company that is granted by the government the gift of no competition, the gift of a captured customer base, and the gift of a guaranteed return on its investments, owes something more to the public.
At the absolute least, when a regulated monopoly does something in secret that smacks so clearly of potential corruption, it owes us all answers. Tell us how this was not done with nefarious intentions. Set the record straight. Tell us someone made a terrible mistake and explain why that person, despite that mistake, still has a job. Tell us the truth.
This is the question that must be asked, the question that wasn’t asked, and the question I want answered while there is still time.
Court Rich focuses on renewable energy, regulatory and land-use issues. He represents clients that often contest APS policies. On Twitter, @Court_Rich.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Governors and the Progressive Movement; Author David Berman to speak at Changing Hands Tempe on Thursday, September 19

On June 28, 2019, I posted a review of Morrison Institute senior research fellow David Berman's latest book, Governors and the Progressive Movement.

On Thursday, September 19, 2019 at 7pm (Mountain Standard Time), Professor Berman will present his book and then sign copies of it at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe.

From my June 28, 2019 review,
Arizona State University professor emeritus of Political Science and Morrison Institute for Public Policy senior research fellow David Berman has contributed an important book that those wanting to learn lessons from the Progressive Movement [1890s - 1920s] will want to devour.
Berman explores the balance of states' rights and the centralized federal government. With more of a focus on the chief executives of state governments, covering each state in the Union at the time.
Berman tells us what they did.
...Populists and, later, the Progressives, moved away from laissez-faire, individualism, and limited government and generally took the position that poverty was the product of conditions over which the poor had no control or, borrowing from the Populists, that the poor were that way because the rich were stealing from them. [William Jennings] Bryan sought to bring the good life to all people, not simply the privileged. He pledged to break up the monopolies, regulate or nationalize the railroads, democratize the political system so that the common people could rule, and shift more of the costs of government to those who could afford to pay. (p 21)
Today, in the our country, the Occupant of the White House is the antithesis of this ideal. His dominant ideology -- other than complete chaos -- is radical reactionary politics to steal, kill and destroy* anything and everything good accomplished toward the ends Berman cited above. Not coincidentally, most such things were instituted by Democratic presidents as well as Eisenhower and Nixon. Republican presiders Reagan, and both Bushes, took a different approach. Trump has amplified reactionary politics to tragic heights.

Ironically, Trump gained power by co-opting and/or highjacking Evangelical Christianity (more fairly characterized as Dominionism or Christian Nationalism) with brazen demagoguery. To that end he promised economic populism but wouldn't know what that really means if it bit him on the ass.

There are two Democratic candidates for that high office today who DO embrace a Progressive economic vision for America. But that's not the subject of Berman's talk this week.

* John 10:10 (NIV) says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

Is the current Occupant a thief? Or even a crook and a cheat? But I digress.

Please join me at Changing Hands in Tempe on Thursday. Then on Friday, join me at the Phoenix Youth Climate Strike and March to the State Capitol. This time youth will be joined by adults.

Monday, September 2, 2019

The Brave Ones WIN! -- Happy Labor Day

Mark Engler, author of This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt is Shaping the Twenty-First Century and editorial board member at Dissent, commemorates this Labor Day holiday with an essay, Reviving the General Strike!, published in The Nation.

Excerpts follow:
Organizers seeking to spark far-reaching work stoppages in the United States can invoke a powerful fact: It has happened before.
Today, activists of many varieties are claiming the strike as a tool to fight seemingly intractable problems. Those talking about this form of mass protest are not limited to the labor movement, which has been inspired by recent waves of teachers’ strikes. They also include immigrant rights advocates who are calling for broad-based disruption, as well as climate change activists planning a Global Climate Strike in September.
The idea of a strike that extends beyond a single workplace or group of employees to encompass a critical mass of society has long held a hallowed place in the radical imagination. Rarely, though, is it spoken of as a realistic tactic in America. Yet those experimenting with this possibility today can invoke a compelling fact: It has happened before. [...]
Yet the Seattle general strike was, nonetheless, “an enormous display of power,” Frank told me. “It didn’t just show union power to the employers, but it showed that working people could run the city themselves.” By withdrawing from business as usual, “labor was able to say, ‘Look what we can do,’” she added. “And we carry that inside of us to this day.”
Notably workers, Arizona teachers, in 2018 demonstrated the effectiveness (POWER) of a unified labor action. For years even decisive court decisions were unable to get the GOP-ruled state legislature to make significant improvements to funding for the most important tax-funded expenditure - public education.

When educator angst reached critical mass, they acted as one. From the NYTimes (April 26, 2018),

Teachers stage at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix preparing to march to the Arizona Capitol
PHOENIX — Thousands of teachers in Arizona and Colorado walked out of their classrooms on Thursday to demand more funding for public schools, the latest surge of a teacher protest movement that has already swept through three states and is spreading quickly to others.
Hundreds of public schools were shut down in Arizona because of the walkouts, which turned the streets of Downtown Phoenix into seas of crimson as educators and their supporters marched to the State Capitol wearing red T-shirts and chanting “Red for Ed,” as the movement is known here.

From CNN (May 1, 2018),
The Arizona Education Association tweeted that 50,000 people participated in a rally in Phoenix on Monday. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten joined the rally in Phoenix on Monday.
"We have to come together to solve the funding issue -- @dougducey needs to talk to teachers and work with Republicans and Democrats to come up with real solutions," she tweeted.

"To ask us just to trust is hard because when you look at history, it's hard to trust," said third-grade teacher Gwen Cordiak. "To ask us to go back to the classroom, when most people haven't even seen the bill... we've been talking to lawmakers that haven't seen bill yet... we're not going on blind faith."
The bottom line here is that teachers in Arizona and other states recognized -- despite the foot dragging, stonewalling and excuse making -- they had power when they stood (and marched) together.

Greta Thunberg matter-of-factly speaks in clear, succinct language. In one year, she has ignited a global movement. Nevertheless, reactionary entrenched interests have taken to using tired tactics to intimidate and silence her and the millions around the globe who celebrate her message. Let me remind you that The Obstacle is The Way.
As it turns out, this is one thing all great men and women of history have in common. Like oxygen to a fire, obstacles became fuel for the blaze that was their ambition. Nothing could stop them, they were (and continue to be) impossible to discourage or contain. Every impediment only served to make the inferno within them burn with greater ferocity.
Holiday, Ryan. The Obstacle Is the Way (pp. 3-4). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 
She disdains celebrity. She makes no claim to heroism. She rebuffs efforts to idolize her. She isn't calculating or preoccupied with fame or ego. There is no artifice about her. She speaks plainly, without affectation or embroidery.
In words and deeds, Thunberg is the embodiment of philosopher Howard Zinn's admonition: "We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power that can transform the world."

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Youth Climate Strike September 20th, in Phoenix

I stand and will march with Arizona youth on September 20th, 2019 (2 - 5 pm) 

Meet at Phoenix City Hall 2 pm, march to the State Capitol (1.3 miles) and rally until 5 pm. Route map above.