Friday, October 5, 2018

Should the Public Be Able To See Voting Machine Instruction Manuals?

Posted By on Fri, Oct 5, 2018 at 4:09 PM

  • Wikimedia

Here are two overlapping stories. First, Tucsonan John Brakey, head of AUDIT-USA and longtime election integrity watchdog, recently received a cease-and-desist order from Election Systems & Software, one of the big three election machine companies. Second, a lengthy article in this week's New York Times magazine details the very problems Brakey is concerned about: ways voting machines can malfunction or be hacked which can change election results, turning winners into losers and losers into winners.

Brakey put instruction manuals for ES&S voting machines on his AUDIT-USA website. They look like the typical, detailed user manuals we get when we buy software packages, but ES&S doesn't want them in public view. The company wrote Brakey a cease-and-desist letter demanding he take the material down. If not, the company threatens to take him to court for copyright violation.

Has Brakey violated copyright law by posting the ES&S manuals? I won't venture a lay person's opinion, though I've talked with people who say, as with many copyright cases, there's not a clear answer. But another question has a clear answer for me. Should a company whose products are used to count votes in elections be allowed to work in secret, out of public view? My answer is no. When one of the foundations of our democracy, free and fair elections, is at stake, machines and software created by a private, for-profit vendor should not collect and tally votes under cover of darkness. If bad actors can change election results at will, it's game over for our democratic system.

Brakey's reaction to the cease-and-desist letter? If a company which works so hard to guard its secrecy wants to take him to court, that's fine with him.

The New York Times magazine article is titled, The Crisis of Election Security. The shoddy programming described in the article, the gaping security holes, the ease with which the machines can be hacked and votes altered, were serious problems when the voting systems were first put into common use. Today, when we know Russian hackers have their tendrils in our election systems, the possibility that election results can be changed by a foreign power is all the more frightening.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Is There Light At the End Of the Standardized Testing Tunnel?

Posted By on Wed, Oct 3, 2018 at 3:25 PM


Forbes is not my go-to source for educational news and insight, but you get news and insight where you find it. In this case, it's from a 39-year-veteran high school English teacher, a fellow English teacher who outranks me by five years. I have to pay attention to what he says, right?

The headline asks, Is The Big Standardized Test A Big Standardized Flop? The answer, according to the writer, is yes, and teachers knew it when the testing craze began ramping up 20 years ago. The people who didn't catch on were leaders of the education reform/privatization movement. Now a few of them are beginning to.

The author cites the work of two conservative educational scholars, Jay Greene and Frederick Hess. Greene is head of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas (If the "education reform" in the department title and Arkansas as the location aren't clues enough to Greene's conservative educational leanings, let me add for longtime followers of the Goldwater Institute and my posts, Matthew Ladner, ex-education guy at the Goldwater Institute and current senior research fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, has been a frequent contributor to Greene's blog.) Greene says, rightly, test scores aren't valuable in and of themselves. They are supposed to be predictors of success in students' future lives. The problem is, they're not very good at it.
If increasing test scores is a good indicator of improving later life outcomes, we should see roughly the same direction and magnitude in changes of scores and later outcomes in most rigorously identified studies. We do not.
And he goes further, saying test scores and VAM (Value Added Measurement) don't tell us much about the quality of the schools or the programs the students are enrolled in.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A One Issue State Election?

Posted By on Tue, Oct 2, 2018 at 2:01 PM

This is the year to vote education.

It's been the number one issue in the state for years. It's on everyone's minds and most candidates' lips. The decision voters make, whether to continue with the Republican-majority status quo or shift more power to Democrats, will be a major factor in deciding our children's present and future.

If you have patience enough and time, by all means look beyond education when you choose who to vote for. The more you know when you cast your ballot, the better. But after you take a deep dive into the candidates' positions, you're likely to find their approach to education is a reliable a indicator of where they stand on other important issues. Vote their positions on education, and you won't go far wrong.

Candidates who support a robust, fully funded system of public education are making a statement of principle which goes beyond schooling. "Public" is the key word. They want to provide a quality education for all the state's children, the whole K-through-college public, and probably pre-K as well, to give them the best shot at a bright future.

"Public" is also the key word when it comes to the same candidates' approach to the rest of government. They want state government to contribute to the well being of the general public, in the present and into the future. That means, among other things, supporting a well funded social services system, building and maintaining infrastructure and tending to the environment.

Candidates who are OK with education funding at levels low enough that the courts say they're unconstitutional aren't so keen on public education. Lots of them like to use the term "government schools" (FYI, that's supposed to be a bad thing) along with "failing schools" and "failing teachers" to describe our public education system. They heap praise on charter and private schools which educate 20 percent of the school-aged population and treat the schools educating 80 percent of children as an afterthought.

Candidates who disparage "government schools" think of the rest of government the same way, as a public irritant, not a public good. They want government to get out of the way so the free market can do what as it pleases. The less taxes, the less spending, the less meddling by the government in Arizona's affairs, the better.

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Friday, September 28, 2018

Watercolor with Creative Tribe at Reforma Mexican Cantina

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2018 at 12:39 PM

click image COURTESY
  • Courtesy
Paint your very own Fall Harvest Water Color painting with Creative Tribe, a community of creative women that gather to be creative!

Creative Tribe will be hosting the watercolor workshop at Reforma Modern Mexican restaurant on Friday, Oct. 12 from 5:45 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Local artist, Alyssa Robinson, will be instructing the workshop and will teach beginners the basic fundamentals, styles and techniques of water color painting. Participants will also be able to take their water color art home. 
click image Visit the Reforma for a Watercolor Painting workshop with Creative Tribe on Friday, Oct. 12. - DOWNTOWNTUCSON.ORG
  • Visit the Reforma for a Watercolor Painting workshop with Creative Tribe on Friday, Oct. 12.

The Reforma Mexican restaurant venue is located on 4340 N. Campbell Ave., and will be serving up chips and salsa and alcoholic beverages including $6 margaritas, $6 sangrias, $6 house wine, and $5 cocktails!

Tickets for the workshops are $35. 

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Lineup: What's Happening in Tucson This Week!

Posted By on Thu, Sep 27, 2018 at 3:11 PM


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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Stop Saying "Playing Politics" Like It Means Something

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2018 at 3:15 PM

  • Courtesy of BigStock

"The Democrats are playing politics." "The Republicans are playing politics." "Mitch McConnell is playing politics." "Chuck Schumer is playing politics."

And your point is?

Of course they're playing politics. It's what politicians do. Politician: practitioner of politics. It's in the name. It's in the job description. Politicians pick their causes, they pick their moments, they plot, they strategize, they use tricks of the trade to get what they want. Meanwhile, politicians on the other side of the aisle do the same. Politicians who don't play politics either aren't very good at their jobs or they're back benchers who sit quietly, vote aye or nay, then sit quietly again.

Politicians who accuse other politicians of "playing politics" are playing politics.

It's the word "play" that makes "playing politics" sound like it's something politicians shouldn't do, like they're playing games with something that should be taken seriously. If you say "practicing politics," or "strategizing," it doesn't sound nearly as petty. It's like when people talk about "throwing money at education." The word "throwing" makes funding education sound like it's foolish and wasteful.

Politicians should be called out when they practice dirty politics. Lying. Cheating. Ducking legitimate questions. Selling their souls and their votes to special interests. Call the political sins by their names. Saying politicians are "playing politics" is accusing them of plying their trade. 

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Musician Highlight: The Sun is Out by Dave and Kara

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2018 at 1:52 PM

click image daveandkara_3000x3000px.jpg
Music artists Dave and Kara have released their debut album entitled The Sun is Out. This music duo crosses genres such as alt-country, contemporary folk and indie-rock.
Dave and Kara Stricker are a couple splitting their time between Portland, Oregon and Tucson. Their songs are inspired by the intimacy and playfulness of the Dave and Kara’s relationship.

Dave, an inductee of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame, has a long history of musical performance with the Dave Sticker Band, the artists behind The Westin Song.

Kara found her voice jamming with Dave for the first time on their honeymoon.
With Kara’s pure tone and wide range, and Dave’s skill with multiple instruments and production, the couple is a match made in heaven.
For more information visit or check them out on instagram at @daveandkaramusic.

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Ducey, Garcia Clash Over Education, Border Security in First Televised Debate

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2018 at 10:32 AM

From left to right: Democrat David Garcia, debate moderator Ted Simons of Arizona PBS, Green Party candidate Angel Torres and incumbent Republican Doug Ducey. - LAUREN INTRIERI/CRONKITE NEWS
  • Lauren Intrieri/Cronkite News
  • From left to right: Democrat David Garcia, debate moderator Ted Simons of Arizona PBS, Green Party candidate Angel Torres and incumbent Republican Doug Ducey.

Incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey and Democratic rival David Garcia clashed Monday night over education and border security during a live, televised debate on Arizona PBS.

The debate, sponsored by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission and moderated by “Horizon” host Ted Simons, featured frequent back and forth and the two candidates talking over one another. Green Party candidate Angel Torres also was part of the debate but often was overshadowed by the main-party candidates.

Garcia opened by saying Arizona’s education system is in crisis. The Arizona State University educator brought up the Red for Ed movement, blaming Ducey for the walkout of thousands of teachers last spring, highlighted by a large protest at the state Capitol in April. Garcia noted Arizona ranks near the last among states in education and said teachers still are not receiving what they demand.

“The key area that we need to develop is education, specifically,” Garcia said. “A change in education is Arizona’s number one issue. It is my strength, it is Ducey’s weakness, and it’s going to be the difference.”

Ducey was quick to respond, speaking before Simons finished his question.

“I will be held accountable for the last three plus years for Arizona education, not for the past 20 years,” Ducey said.

Following the six-day #RedForEd walkout, Ducey announced he would provide a 20 percent teacher pay increase by 2020 and $371 million in additional funding over the next five years.

Ducey mentioned his 20 by 20 plan but agreed there’s more to do. Ducey said Arizona teachers are already receiving a portion of the promised 20 percent.

Across the state, however, the pay raises have varied greatly by school district, according to

Torres said K-12 teachers and staff members need raises and improved infrastructure and technology.

Ducey criticized Garcia, saying the Democrat didn’t want to talk about his plan to fund education, which he said would double income taxes.

In response, Garcia said that was his plan but it’s no longer on the ballot; the Invest in Education initiative was removed by the Arizona Supreme Court. Garcia said he intends to present a new plan to the Legislature. He accused Ducey of being a follower, not a leader.

Ducey responded by asking viewers to go to because Garcia “is deceiving.”

Immigration and border control were other hot topics.

Garcia said we need an immigration system that works, one that includes border security, lawful entry for those eligible to enter the United States and provides a place of refuge. He also said Arizona highways need to be patrolled 24/7.

Ducey responded by saying that Garcia’s team has attacked efforts to control the border, and that the Democrat wants to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He also touted the Arizona Border Strike Force, which he said is keeping drugs out of Arizona.

Garcia said he wants ICE to be reformed.

Torres said it’s important that Mexican and Central American economies are strengthened and free of poverty to prevent illegal immigrants from entering Arizona.

In their finishing statements, Ducey and Garcia once again brought up education. Ducey said he hoped viewers could see the dramatic differences between him and his opponent. Garcia concluded saying there would never be another governor more devoted to public schools.

Ducey, Garcia and Torres will debate again Tuesday night in Tucson. The general election is Nov. 6.

For more stories from Cronkite News, visit

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