AZ Ed Supe Diane Douglas, of all people, demonstrates how Republicans can be sensible about sex

05 May 2015 09:30 am
Posted by: Donna

A bawdy little tempest is brewing over a website run by an aide to AZ Superintendent Diane Douglas.

Michael Bradley, who is in charge of day-to-day operations at the Arizona Department of Education, runs a website featuring items of general interest, including pictures of dogs and quirky news items, as well as thousands of photos of scantily clad women in costumes, and sexually suggestive images and humor.

It’s the racy imagery, including an image of one woman touching another woman’s breasts and women eating phallically-shaped foods that has caused concerns.

Bradley, also an author of “PG-13 and R-rated” science-fiction books, defended the images posted at and on a separate social-media site as typical of the popular hobby known as “cosplay,” or costume play where women and men dress as characters inspired by popular culture. He says his website is a “re-post website,” and that most of the content is sent to him by those who want their images shared. He said similar images are also available on social-media sites such as Facebook.

“You see more at a nightclub,” Bradley said of the images on his site. “It’s really harmless.”

The only things I see as what could be legitimate concerns about this would be: 1. Are any underage people involved? 2. Are there any non-consenting people involved? 3. Is Bradley behaving inappropriately toward anyone, in the workplace or out? If the aforementioned are false then there is nothing here and Douglas, who says she is not planning to fire Bradley, is correct. At most, it might be judicious for Bradley to voluntarily ixnay on the sexxxay blogging while serving in his current role with the state since the pearls, oh the pearls, they are going to be clutched!

Former schools Superintendent Jaime Molera says he supports freedom of speech, but that given his position, Bradley’s online activity crosses a line for parents and teachers.

“If he’s a private guy and this is his genre of writing, that’s his decision, and certainly there’s a whole lot of people who are into that,” Molera said. “At the same time, he’s the chief of staff to the state schools superintendent and there is a standard that they have to portray to the public — particularly schoolkids.”

Rebecca Gau, executive director of Stand for Children and a former gubernatorial education policy adviser, said she learned of the website weeks ago. She said the content is “offensive.”

“There are pictures of women’s breasts, there are pictures of paraphernalia related to women’s breasts, there are comments about women’s breasts,” said Gau. “I take my children’s digital footprint very seriously, I would expect state leaders to do the same thing.

“When you’re paid by taxpayers … there’s a certain expectation that you’re going to conduct yourself at all times in a respectable way.”

Oh brother. Molera and Gau are setting up an arbitrary standard of “respectability” for public servants here and it’s highly unlikely that Arizona schoolchildren would even be interested in the after-work activities of employees of the Superintendent’s office unless their parents were making a big deal of it (hint: stop making a big deal of it!)

That said, there is an obvious issue of hypocrisy here. One would hope that Michael Bradley would do some self-examination about his choice to align himself with the GOP, which has made into an integral part of its platform the intention to codify into law harsh punishment of some people (LGBT, women, poor) for their personal lives. I’m doubting that self-searching will happen since Bradley told Yvonne Wingett-Sanchez (the reporter of the article I linked) that he feels his critics are motivated by his and Douglas’ stances on education policy. That’s surely true to some extent but it’s still a gaping failure on his part to grasp the irony of his situation.

(The other thing is, of course, the double standard. Bradley is a man so it’s no surprise that he remains employed despite his website being known about for months. A Michelle Bradley of either party, who wrote PG-13 and R-rated novels and put up countless pictures of scantily clad men with commentary about their specific body parts on her website, would have been jettisoned long ago.)

You may wonder why I would want to defend Bradley at all. Here’s why: I’m dead tired of grown ass adults pretending that sex is this shocking and awful thing that only degenerates engage in and OMG WE MUST PROTECT THE CHILDREN FROM KNOWING ABOUT IT, while the vast majority of said grown ass adults do engage in it and consume a ridiculous amount of entertainment related to it. The gender double standard is especially pernicious here, since women are constantly lambasted for being in violation of sexual mores simply for doing what 95% of women do (use contraception) on one hand, while expected to be alluring and available sexpots on the other.

And I frankly have no patience for OMG SEX!1! histrionics from anyone even putatively on my side while conservatives are redoubling their efforts to punish sluts in the wake of their recent failures to block same-sex marriage rights.

Respectability and Baltimore

30 Apr 2015 06:26 am
Posted by: Donna

Much has been said about the protests in Baltimore following the death in police custody of 25 year old Freddie Gray and, of course, much of it is centered on how black people should better themselves so as to avoid deadly confrontations with the police and discrimination in general. You know the drill: Pull your pants up! Stay in school! Stop having babies out of wedlock! Stop being so angry!

I’ll just paraphrase something I posted on Facebook a while back about that:

An African-American man graduated with honors from Columbia University. He went on to become a community organizer and then to attend Harvard Law School, where he was the editor of the prestigious Law Review. Afterward, he worked as a civil rights attorney and as a lecturer at University of Chicago Law School.

In 1992 he married a woman who was an accomplished attorney and they had two daughters. They have been married ever since and are the model of an intact and stable family. He was elected to the Illinois State Senate and then to the United States Senate. In 2008 he was elected President of the United States. It does not get any more respectable than that.

And yet.

President Barack Obama, obviously the man I just described, is the target of a constant barrage of the ugliest and most vicious hatred imaginable. As is his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama. Candidate Obama got Secret Service protection back in 2007 (the earliest any Presidential candidate has ever gotten it) and and he and his family are under constant death threats, including some alleged “joking” ones by police officers. GOP members of Congress and other officeholders regularly treat the President with sneering contempt. An entire industry was forged around doubting the circumstances of his birth and qualification to be President.

It is clear that being the most respectable, and respected, black person in the world is no inoculation against having a whole lot of people resent the position you have attained and wish you ill. Or dead. In fact, there is a rather long and sordid history in America of black people being annihilated for doing the very things white people are currently scolding the protesters in Baltimore to do. So maybe think a little harder about why black people are angry before dispensing any stupid advice you may be inclined to give.

APS cannot sanitize its shameful dark money legacy with strategic philanthropy and Anderson Cooper

28 Apr 2015 06:37 am
Posted by: Donna

Dark money has the power to make a lot happen!

Last Saturday the ASU Center for the Study of Race and Democracy hosted an event, “Delivering Democracy Lecture 2015″, headlined by Anderson Cooper. I know many people who attended it and, from what I understand, it was a fine presentation. One of the main sponsors was Arizona Public Services (commonly known as APS, the state’s largest private utility company), which was apparently lauded several times during the event for its generosity. Which is interesting because it was only a few months ago, during the 2014 midterms, that APS (under the rubric of “independent expenditure” Save Our Future Now) dumped an astounding amount of dark money into Corporation Commission races to defeat Republican candidate Vernon Parker in the GOP primary and Democratic candidate Sandra Kennedy. What the aforementioned people have in common is that they are both African-American and also that the hit pieces and ads run against both were crudely obvious Willie Horton-style racist characterizations as far as many people (myself included) were concerned.

If there’s a doubt that Parker and Kennedy were targeted by APS because of their race, let me remind readers that both were running as teams with white candidates. Parker ran with former legislator Lucy Mason, who is a pro-renewable energy Republican. Save Our Future Now spent just over $30K in opposition of Mason but about $830K opposing Parker. But if you think that’s an alarming disparity, get a load of this (arrows helpfully provided by your author):

Jim Holway, who was every bit the solar enthusiast that Kennedy was, somehow didn’t rate a dime of oppo money spent against him while Sandra Kennedy warranted $1.3 million. If you think that Jim’s being about as white as Anderson Cooper has nothing to do with that, I’ve got an aging nuclear power plant to sell you round about Tonopah.

Former AZ Legislator says US House might impeach Judge Snow

24 Apr 2015 05:00 am
Posted by: Donna

Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County is having a less than stellar week, as he stands trial for contempt of court. On Thursday afternoon he was asked by US District Judge Murray Snow if what had been reported by Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times in June 2014 and January 2015, that Arpaio’s office had investigated Snow’s wife, was true. Arpaio admitted it was, to what the AZ Republic reported as “gasps and murmurs in the downtown Phoenix courtroom”.

Arpaio’s fans, who usually bombard comments sections with support for their hero, had been mostly absent on articles about this new development in the trial. One intrepid soul who did wade into the fray was none other than Republican former Arizona Legislator Jack Harper.

That’s a nice “career” you have there, Judge Snow. Harper would hate to see it be, uh, loosed and stiffled by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte and his statesmanlike GOP colleagues!

Gay is the new abortion?

22 Apr 2015 06:43 am
Posted by: Donna

This remarkable item has gone viral:

Columnist Dan Savage calls it a “new variation on the “straight people are terrible” argument against marriage equality.”

Religious conservatives have already argued that straight people will stop getting married if gay people can and that marriage must be reserved for straight people because only straights can get pregnant by accident, and without the special inducements of marriage (a big party, a special cake, a honeymoon), straight people won’t take care of all those babies they’re having by accident. Now they’re arguing that straight people will abort their babies if gay people get married.

Man, straight people are terrible—why were they ever allowed to get married in the first place?

The anti-choice movement is an entire parallel bizarro world of crackpot bullshit so it would be easy to dismiss this as yet another weird myth, like the belief that abortions can be reversed, that has taken hold there. But there is an important context for this. The argument is being put forth in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court as it considers the latest challenge to same sex marriage.

A reduction in the opposite-sex marriage rate means an increase in the percentage of women who are unmarried and who, according to all available data, have much higher abortion rates than married women. And based on past experience, institutionalizing same-sex marriage poses an enormous risk of reduced opposite-sex marriage rates. As the amicus brief explains in detail, redefining marriage in genderless terms—which is legally necessary to permit marriage by same-sex couples—undermines the existing social norms of marriage in ways that are likely over time to reduce opposite-sex marriage rates. For example, an “any-two-adults” model of marriage implicitly tells men (and women) that a child doesn’t need a father (or mother), thereby weakening the norm of gender-diverse parenting. Other norms, such as the value of biological bonding, partner exclusivity, and reproductive postponement until marriage, will likewise crumble. It is thus not surprising that, even in the short time that same-sex marriage has been officially recognized in some states at home and abroad, man-woman marriage rates have declined—even as marriage rates in other jurisdictions have remained relatively stable.

If you’ve been following the Supreme Court on both reproductive and LGBT rights the past few years it should be obvious that this brief is a Hail Mary pass aimed squarely at Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy, swing voting attention whore that he is, has been decent on gay rights lately but has a big sad about abortion and has consistently sided with anti-choicers. (When he sided with the majority in the Hobby Lobby decision he cited his concern that abortion might one day have to be covered in employer health plans.) It is unlikely (one hopes!) that this risible attempt by the homobigots to link same sex marriage to abortion will succeed with Justice Kennedy but it’s no surprise that they tried it. It’s all they’ve got.

It also looks to be consistent with a broader strategy by right wingers to reinstate OMG SLUTZ!1! firmly at the forefront of their theocratic crusade under the (sadly, mostly correct) assumption that Americans will put up little to no resistance to things that are seen as punishing “promiscuous” women. The religious fascists have learned the hard way that allowing “religious freedom” to be framed as something used primarily to attack anyone else but sluts dooms it to failure these days. Hobby Lobby? Free ride all the way to the Supreme Court! SB1062 in Arizona and subsequent state bills that were seen as efforts to codify into law discrimination against LGBT and possibly other minority groups? Slow your roll, bigots!

The “100 scholars of religion” who filed the brief with SCOTUS are following the anti-choice playbook of making the following competing claims about women: That we are innately and relentlessly driven toward motherhood and a lifetime of marital servitude to the first man who will have us and that we are terribly fickle creatures who will abandon that project and immediately abort pregnancies (that we would gladly welcome otherwise) at any stage up to “seven pounds” at the slightest provocation. As for you straight men, the anti-choice assumption about you is straightforward and singular: You’re a bunch of selfish, immature louts who must be forced into responsibility by a shotgun wedding. If that is all true then Dan Savage has a point. Straight people are terrible!

This conflating of same sex marriage with abortion lends credence to Amanda Marcotte’s observation that right wingers have taken to describing a lot of things they don’t like as “abortion” in the hopes of tapping into the mainstream public’s (and Anthony Kennedy’s) unease over female autonomy.

It makes sense, from a political standpoint. On its own, health care reform is quite popular with the voting public. People want to curb the abuses of insurance companies, want to do something about the millions of Americans that are uninsured, and want some kind of cost controls on insurance. But if you can call health care reform “abortion,” then you can get people to quit thinking about how they’d like to have health insurance, and start getting them to think about how much they hate it when women can make their own sexual and life choices, as if they were men or something.

This is the result we get from media that are working on too short of a cycle (or are too cowardly) to check the veracity of claims emanating from the right, a world where the right can brazenly use the term “abortion,” and discussion about women’s health care in general, as scare tactics without much fear that they’ll face criticism from supposed fact-checking referees. Pro-choicers shouldn’t stand for it. We can demand a world where there’s no stigma attached to abortion itself, and where the word “abortion” isn’t used inaccurately to dredge up fears and hostility towards issues that don’t have anything at all to do with pregnancy termination.

People who support LGBT equality shouldn’t stand for it either.

Top Two Primary is back, with twice the magical thinking.

21 Apr 2015 06:38 am
Posted by: Donna

Photo: Arizona Capitol Times

As promised, the brain trust of Arizona centrist business establishment types (country club Republicans and corporate Dems) that failed to pass Prop 121 in 2012 plan to return with a slightly altered version of it in 2016.

Former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, who led the campaign for Proposition 121 and is spearheading the 2016 measure, said organizers of the proposed Open Nonpartisan Primary Election plan on doing things a bit differently this time around.

“We get we lost last time,” Johnson said. “You don’t have to remind me of that. I get that one. So you have to look at why did I lose and what assets are out there that I can utilize to try to expand it.

Top Two primaries (also known as open or jungle primaries) are based on the surreal premise that having only the top two vote getters in the primary (regardless of party affiliation) advance to the general will improve government by enabling more “moderate” (read: business-friendly) candidates to defeat partisan ideologues. It seems reasonable if you don’t think about it for more than thirty seconds (and proponents are dearly hoping you won’t) but, alas, a cursory examination of the wildly optimistic promises of this scheme reveals its implausibility as a statewide solution for Arizona’s political dysfunction.

As I and others have explained before, Top Two only “works” in the way its designers intend if a whole bunch of variables fall neatly into place. Take the example of a Republican-dominated district that regularly elects radical reactionary conservatives like, say, Russell Pearce or Sylvia Allen. Under a Top Two primary, the Chamber of Commerce could recruit a less obstreperous Republican who perhaps holds a socially liberal view or two to run and garner enough moderate Republican, non-party designated (NPD), and Democratic votes to overcome the conservative votes that the right winger would undoubtedly get.

Is this possible? Of course. The difficulty is that it requires that no Democrat enter the race, and that includes sham Democrats recruited by right wing operatives to dilute the moderate Republican candidate’s primary vote total. If the moderate does manage to secure one of the two coveted spots for the general election, then it is imperative to get the votes of the moderate Republicans, left-leaning NPDs, and Democrats for that Chamber-anointed Republican. That would necessitate a lot of personal outreach to those general election voters, who tend not to be as versed in local politics as their primary voting counterparts. Who will do that work? Some of it can be done by paid canvassers but it’s not likely that the effort would succeed without considerable support from Democratic PCs and volunteers willing to knock on doors – in both the primary and general election seasons in 100 + degree temperatures – for a candidate who may hold views those activists find objectionable.

Ultimately, Top Two provides a specific, high-maintenance, and luck-dependent path to the centrist Nirvana that its proponents promise. Sometimes the stars align and it does work, as with the 2011 recall of Russell Pearce. There are, however, an infinite number of other, unintended paths that could unfold. And that is leaving aside the ability that right wing candidates currently have merely to make a phone call to Americans for Prosperity or any number of national conservative big funders for a few hundred thou or a million or so to drop in their races. The Top Two people appear to be oblivious to how elections have changed since Citizens United and related court decisions. It’s understandable, since many of them were big ballers in Arizona until only few years ago, that it is tough for them to accept that they are no longer as influential as they used to be in state elections but that does not confer an obligation upon others to embrace their magical thinking-based grasp at relevancy.

If you had any doubt that Top Two proponents are delusional, consider Paul Johnson’s defense of the new iteration of the proposition:

First of all, the language will be different. Johnson said organizers aren’t entirely sure what the language will look like, but it may end up being quite similar, though not identical to Proposition 121. Organizers don’t expect to complete the language until this summer. But the current draft makes one notable change. Candidates’ party affiliation won’t be listed on the ballot under the proposed open primary system.

The change may seem small, but Johnson said it’s quite significant. Opponents of Proposition 121 criticized the 2012 measure because it could have led to situations where two members of the same political party face off against each other in the general election.

“That’s a big change. That was one of the very big issues that the other side used against us in the last campaign,” Johnson said. “Their TV ads said this could result in two Democrats ending up on the ballot and you really wouldn’t have a choice. That’s a big difference.”

No one ceases being a Republican or Democrat (or whatever party) simply because no letter appears by their name on the ballot! I’m honestly not sure what planet these Top Two people live on, let alone what country or state.

I’m taking this one personally, Governor Ducey

16 Apr 2015 07:48 am
Posted by: Donna

Per AZ Capitol Times (yes, behind a paywall but I pay for my subscription so I get to talk about it):

Gov. Doug Ducey may have just cost more than 200,000 Arizonans a shot at keeping the health insurance they received through the Affordable Care Act, though they won’t know for sure until the U.S. Supreme Court rules this summer.
Ducey has signed HB2643, which prohibits Arizona or any of its political subdivisions from using taxpayer dollars or personnel to establish a state-run health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act. Arizona is one of 34 states using a federally run exchange after declining to set up a state-run exchange of its own.

About 204,000 people in Arizona now have health insurance through the state’s federal exchange, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

But those federally administered exchanges may not be around for much longer. The U.S. Supreme Court in March heard arguments in King v. Burwell, in which opponents of the Affordable Care Act argued that the law does not allow the federal government to provide subsidies for health insurance purchased through federally run exchanges. Obamacare critics argue that the law only allows for subsidies in state-run exchanges.

Oh great, our “pro-life” Governor wants me to lose the health insurance I got last year, after seven years of being uninsured due to pre-existing conditions. Thanks, Doug.

This raises new questions about where Ducey’s administration falls on the stupid/evil continuum of conservatism. It is certainly callous and cruel to be willing to cast tens of thousands of Arizonans out of the health care coverage they were able to obtain in 2014, so score one for evil! Then again, should the Supremes vote in favor of the plaintiffs in King v Burwell, then Arizona is left with few to no health insurance options for all the striving entrepreneurs that Ducey claimed to be the champion of when he ran for Governor in 2014. It is incredibly dumb of Ducey to signal to budding business owners that they should probably pick another state in which to open up shop. That puts him squarely in “I read Ayn Rand when I was fifteen and it changed my life!” territory, right along with the likes of noted dumbasses like Sam Brownback and Scott Walker.

Either way, Ducey basically told me to fuck off and die.