Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Big Bucks Conservative Donors Beyond the Koch Brothers

Posted By on Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 3:45 PM

  • Courtesy of BigStock
It's a conservative three-fer. Cut into financial support for Democrats. Lower the pay for state government workers. Encounter less resistance when you attack "government schools." All by weakening the power of public employee unions.

That's why a case currently in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Janus vs. Afscme, is such a big deal, and why conservatives have been funding the cause behind the case for years.

Janus vs. Afscme would take away the ability of public employee unions to make non-union members pay a "fair share" fee. Twenty-two states currently have that requirement, which makes their public employee unions strong as a bargaining force for state employees and a political force during election time. The rest, like Arizona, don't have "fair share," making the unions weaker on both fronts. I don't plan to discuss the merits of the case, though like most people whose politics lean left, I very much hope the Supreme Court rules against Janus. The discussion here is about money in politics, specifically the money of one Richard Uihlein.

I had never heard of Uihlein until I read an article a few days ago saying he was one of the largest donors behind the current effort to get rid of the "fair share" fee. So I did a google search on the guy. One article I found calls him "The Koch of conservative politics in Illinois." Another wants you to "Meet the Illinoisan Trying to Buy a Wisconsin Senate Seat." Another article lists "10 super-rich people [who] dominate giving to super PACs active in midterm elections for Congress." For the 2018 elections, Uihlein is at the top of the list with $19.5 million so far, and we're at the beginning of the funding cycle.

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Kids Nowadays. They're Awful(ly Wonderful)!

Posted By on Thu, Feb 22, 2018 at 4:48 PM

  • Courtesy of wikimedia.com
How many times in the past have I complained about "Kids nowadays," how lazy and self-centered and ignorant they are? Not like my generation!

The answer is, never that I can recall. I can't remember old-manning teenagers about the good ol' days, ever.

Matter of fact, when a discussion in one of my high school English classes led to a moment when it looked like it was time for me to Tut-tut my students, I'd often say, "You know, right about now, I'm supposed to tell you what's wrong with your generation, how young people used to be polite and mind their parents and turn in their homework and join in marches for civil rights and protest the Vietnam war back in my day. But it's kind of hard for me to old-man you when my generation's slogan was 'Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n Roll.'"

Maybe as a teacher I wasn't supposed to say that. Setting a bad example and all. Except it's true. Children of the 60s have plenty to be red-faced about when we think about some of the things we said and did. And as for the 50s, well, we 60s college students were the ones who condemned our formative years for their lock-step conformity, racism and sexism. It would have been beyond hypocritical for me to praise the "Father Knows Best" era.

To my last day in the classroom, I maintained the students I had in the final years of my career were as good as, maybe even a little better than, my first students 30-plus years earlier.

The kids are all right. Always have been — acknowledging the obviously stupid, irrational, dangerous behavior which is part of growing up (also part of being a grown up, as this grown-up can attest). All the way back to the youth of ancient Athens running wild in the agora and, according to the leaders of the city-state, having their minds corrupted by that rabble rouser Socrates, the kids have been all right. When youth do truly awful, vicious, violent things, they're likely mirroring the society they live in.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Israel, the U.S. and Guns

Posted By on Wed, Feb 21, 2018 at 4:10 PM

In Israel you can buy 50 bullets a year. That's it. And only if you're a licensed gun owner. That number jumps to 100 bullets if you're also a security guard.

Of the 8.5 million people in Israel (the number doesn't include the 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza), about 135,000 of them have gun licenses — more like 100,000 if you remove the security guards. Most of the licenses are for 9 mm pistols.

So why is our "Second Amendment above all else" crowd implying Israel is a model for rampant gun ownership in the U.S.?

Mike Huckabee and Wayne LaPierre have claimed in the past few days that the security guards Israel places in front of schools are the reason the country doesn't have the kind of shootings we do. People in Israel beg to differ. They say the guards are there to protect against the very real threat of terrorism. The country doesn't suffer from the kind of regular, random, out-of-nowhere shootings we have in this country, in schools or elsewhere. One reason is, they have far stricter gun laws.

An article in the New York Times describes Israel's gun laws. Anyone who scoffs and shouts "FAKE NEWS" because the article is in the Times is an idiot. Do your own research and see if the Times reporting bears out. I did, for a column I wrote in the Northwest Explorer in 2012 following the horrific Sandy Hook school shooting. The situation hasn't changed significantly since then.

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Zona Politics: State Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley and State Sen. Andrea Dalessandro

Posted By on Wed, Feb 21, 2018 at 3:00 PM

In this televised edition of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel: State Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley and state Sen. Andrea Dalessandro sit down for one-on-one interviews about what's going on at the Arizona Legislature this session.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Fourth Avenue and Future of Localism in Tucson

Posted By on Tue, Feb 20, 2018 at 3:32 PM

The ol' Flycatcher bar, on the corner of Sixth Street and Fourth Avenue, may soon be a seven-story apartment complex. - DANYELLE KHMARA
  • Danyelle Khmara
  • The ol' Flycatcher bar, on the corner of Sixth Street and Fourth Avenue, may soon be a seven-story apartment complex.
Tucson is at a critical juncture with our priorities for local ownership and the identity of our community. Historic Fourth Avenue is essential to Tucson’s identity and is currently facing the stark reality of having a development vastly different from the locally owned independent businesses that comprise the avenue and make it Tucson’s strongest local business hub.

The Flycatcher nightclub may be demolished for seven-story apartments and retail space under contract with Education Realty Trust Inc., or EdR, a student-housing development company out of Memphis. The area that EdR has under contract stretches west from the corner of Fourth Avenue and Sixth Street to Fifth Avenue. The development is in the Infill Incentive District (IID) focused on creating more urban planning designs and offering development incentives and flexibility. With this development, EdR is reported to be avoiding the “group dwelling” designation for student housing and instead using the designation “multifamily dwelling” by renting units by room rather than bed and avoiding parking, loading, and landscaping standards.

Local First Arizona has many concerns about a development of this nature despite the supposed economic development benefits that will be touted. We have seen this story unfold before in the City of Tempe. What may seem like simply one new development different than the rest of Fourth Avenue can easily become a trend and the new norm. As Tempe invited more chains to their thriving downtown decades ago, the sales tax revenue dropped steadily for 27 months. Thus, the history and culture of localism on Fourth Avenue must continue to be supported and strengthened to prevent similar trends and norms here in Tucson. Tucsonans and visitors alike have embraced the avenue because of its makeup of unique local businesses, making it a top destination and driving a powerful local economy for decades.

Local ownership is critical to the prosperity of our local communities. By creating a structure of policies and processes for local businesses to be supported, more revenue will stay in Tucson. Local ownership is supported by models of economic development, including reducing economic leakage, avoiding ‘big-whale’ strategies, creating diverse and resilient economies by leveraging local talent, focusing on retention and expansion, tourism and events, and establishing a unique position in the market through these models combined.

What can the community do to address this development that is jeopardizing local ownership? Local First Arizona recommends advocating for the following action steps:

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Zona Politics: Big Data, Billy Kovacs and Hollace Lyon

Posted By on Tue, Feb 20, 2018 at 12:13 PM

On this televised edition of Zona Politics: Host Jim Nintzel talks with Vincent Del Casino Jr., who is delivering the final talk in this year's UA College of Science Spring Lecture Series at Centennial Hall at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26. The topic: "There's No Such Thing As Big Data."

Then Nintzel talks with Billy Kovacs, who is among the half-dozen Democrats running for Southern Arizona's Congressional District 2 seat, and Hollace Lyon, a Democrat who is running for the Arizona House of Representatives in Legislative District 11.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Education of Bill Gates

Posted By on Fri, Feb 16, 2018 at 4:09 PM

  • Courtesy of wikimedia
Bill Gates made billions and billions of dollars in the field of computer technology, helping to transform the world in the process. He's an innovator. He's a disrupter. He's the savviest of savvy businessmen. He's been successful beyond anyone's wildest dreams of success or avarice.

So Gates thought, why not put his entrepreneurial genius and hundreds of millions of dollars a year to work innovating and disrupting and transforming the field of education? How hard can it be?

Pretty hard, he discovered.

Gates has been pouring money into his educational experiments in this country since 2000. Overall, I'd give his efforts a grade of C. Not much help, no grave harm. I'd give what he's learned about education a B. He now understands he doesn't know as much about education as he thought he did.

Bill and Melinda Gates released their annual letter answering The 10 Toughest Questions We Get. Question #2 is, "What do you have to show for the billions you’ve spent on U.S. education?" Their answer employs the couple's usual upbeat tone, but the efforts they describe are less than encouraging, especially given that, "Our foundation spends about $500 million a year in the United States, most of it on education."

A few telling excerpts from their answer:
"One thing we learned is that it’s extremely hard to transform low-performing schools."

"We have also worked with districts across the country to help them improve the quality of teaching. . . . But we haven’t seen the large impact we had hoped for."

"How did our teacher effectiveness work do on these three tests? Its effect on students’ learning was mixed."

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Hey! What Happened To the Arizona Monitor Website?

Posted By on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 3:30 PM

Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller sure knows how to pick her news sources. - COURTESY ARIZONA DAILY INDEPENDENT
  • Courtesy Arizona Daily Independent
  • Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller sure knows how to pick her news sources.
Politico had a fascinating story this morning about the Arizona Monitor, a "news" website that has recently been singing the praises of—among others—Republican Kelli Ward, the former state lawmaker now running for U.S. Senate, as well as Pima County's nuttiest supervisor, Ally Miller.
It looked as if Arizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward had scored a big endorsement: On Oct. 28, she posted a link on her campaign website and blasted out a Facebook post, quoting extensively from a column in the Arizona Monitor.

Ticking off the names of Ward’s competitors in the Republican primary to replace Sen. Jeff Flake, the Monitor declared: “They all, despite how much some of them profess their love and devotion to President Trump, didn’t have the stones to run against Jeff Flake and will have made the ‘brave’ decision to run for Senate only after Flake decided he wasn’t going to run … Kelli Ward is your woman.”

There was just one problem: Despite its reputable sounding name, the Arizona Monitor is not a real news site. It is an anonymous, pro-Ward blog that has referred to her primary opponent Martha McSally as “Shifty McSally,” frequently blasted Flake and, at the top of its home page, proclaims its mission as “Striking Fear into the Heart of the Establishment.” The site launched just a few weeks before publishing the endorsement, and its domain registration is hidden, masking the identity of its owner. On its Facebook page, it is classified as a news site, but scant other information is offered.

The Arizona Monitor seems to be part of a growing trend of conservative political-messaging sites with names that mimic those of mainstream news organizations and whose favored candidates then tout their stories and endorsements as if they were from independent journalists. It’s a phenomenon that spans the country from northern New England, where the anonymous Maine Examiner wreaked havoc on a recent mayoral election, all the way out to California, where Rep. Devin Nunes launched — as reported by POLITICO— his own so-called news outlet, the California Republican.

Hours after the Politico report, the Monitor went offline, which goes to show that cockroaches do scatter once the light hits them.

Miller, who is no stranger to weird blogs run by anonymous would-be journalists, shared links from the Monitor web site, as it and the Arizona Daily Independent were the two places that gave her sympathetic coverage (as most legit news organizations in town have realized that she's a compulsive liar with a thin grasp on reality). But Politico notes that Miller is denying knowing who is/was behind the Monitor. Maybe she can launch another FBI investigation into this one!

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