Ducey didn’t run on his budget? Oh geez, Bob Robb.

16 Mar 2015 03:04 am
Posted by: Donna

Not AZ Republic columnist Bob Robb, but a funny photo of a Bob Robb

Arizona Republic columnist Robert Robb is very peeved by the budget that our new snowbird Governor has signed:

Ducey did not run on the specifics of this or any other budget. During the campaign, he avoided specifics as though they were a form of leprosy.

Nowhere on the campaign trail did Ducey say that he would cut university funding by $75 million to $104 million. Or that he would cut Medicaid payments to hospitals and docs by 5 percent. Or that he would have state taxpayers guarantee the loans of private companies that operate charter schools.

On the campaign trail, Ducey limited himself to the following specifics about the state’s fiscal policy: (1) he would offer a tax cut every year; (2) he would balance the budget without a net increase in taxes; and (3) he would spare K-12 education from any budget cuts.

Far from being a budget on which he ran, the budget he signed actually violates his pledge not to cut K-12 education.

You don’t say! Very strange how a GOP candidate whose general election strategy was to step aside and act as blandly inoffensive as possible, while millions of dollars in dark money ads trashed Fred DuVal, turns out to be the exact Governor who is now cutting millions from K-12 and colleges. Who could have seen that coming? Oh yeah, Democrats, who had been paying attention to Scott Walker, Rick Scott Pat McCrory, and Sam Brownback.

We have been screaming about this for years. Bob Robb, on the other hand, has a long and sordid history of sidling along with the very people he is now denouncing for going too far with the education cuts. How the hell did he not know that was coming? I’m really unconvinced he did not know that.

This is where I get very impatient with Republican voters of all stripes, but especially the more “informed” ones. Right wing activists tell you exactly what they intend to do. They want to wreck the social safety net and start wars everywhere. Thus I submit that the average Republican voter knows exactly what s/he is doing. They’re voting to stick it to non-white people and sometimes that blows back on them.

Victoria Steele’s courageous testimony showed why “rape exceptions” are a sham

13 Mar 2015 03:06 am
Posted by: Donna

Edited to correct the name of the committee chair to Kelly Townsend from Kelli Ward.

Alas, due to our stupidly slow “high speed internet” connection at the house, I’ve been unable to view the two and a half hour Arizona House Federalism and States’ Rights (seriously?) Committee hearing from Wednesday. But there was one part that made the news, and for good reason. It was when Democratic Rep. Victoria Steele of Tucson, who was testifying against SB1318 (which denies insurance coverage for abortion, among other things), was overcome by the whole thing and shared how she had been a repeated victim of sexual assault by a family member as a young girl.

Sorry for the screen shot instead of embedded video but Channel 12 insists upon them opening immediately

Permit me a brief sidetrack to note that the news clip showing the torsos of several heavily pregnant women is a good illustration of why abortion politics are so messed up in this country. The vast majority of abortions occur in the first trimester, several weeks or months before a “baby bump” is apparent so this imagery is shockingly and irresponsibly misleading. Do better, news people.

So anyway, Rep. Steele went up to the podium with every intention, as she says, of being the “calm voice” about the bill. But when she was asked by Committee Chair Kelly Townsend (R) to defend the proposition that abortion is health care she remembered what happened to her, which had happened to other girls in her family. One of those girls was impregnated and, because it was pre-Roe, had to get an illegal abortion.

Townsend responded to Steele’s heart-wrenching account by insisting that there are exceptions in the bill for rape and incest victims. I tweeted Townsend earlier today to ask what the exact process for a rape victim to get one of those coverage exemptions was. I haven’t heard back from her yet and don’t expect I will. There is no language in the bill (because there never is) specifying what, precisely, a woman seeking an abortion has to do to qualify for one. Does whomever she presents herself to for that exceptional abortion merely take her word for it, or does she need a notarized affidavit? Is a police report required? Does there have to be a conviction or, in the absence of a captured suspect, a preponderance of evidence that the girl or woman was brutally raped such that would comport with the fantasies of this infamous South Dakota state senator?

“A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.”

It’s not hard to understand why so few rape and incest victims report, considering how they must wade through whatever they’ve internalized (Was it my fault? Did I lead him on? What will it do to our family if I tell anyone?) and knowing or intuiting that they will face authority figures (like our friend from South Dakota) who are deeply invested in disturbing narratives about rape that require victims to be religious virgins brutalized within an inch of their lives for it to be “legitimate rape”. It’s not hard to understand, then, that rape and incest victims would decide that trying to get coverage for the abortion was not worth the hassle and the constant reliving of the trauma. Thus, rape exceptions on a purely practical level are essentially worthless.

So when someone like Rep.Townsend claims that rape and incest exceptions will be in an anti-choice law, she is engaging (whether she realizes it or not) in craven and lazy posturing. She gets to look reasonable without doing any heavy lifting on explaining how rape exceptions would work. (They don’t.) Luckily for her and other anti-choicers, journalists rarely bother to ask that obvious question.

Cathi Herrod, who is about the most glib and disciplined anti-choicer you will ever find, didn’t bother engaging directly with Channel 12′s request for a comment on Rep. Steele’s testimony:

“No matter what you think about abortion, we should all be able to agree that taxpayers should not be forced to pay for abortion, and women should be presented with the facts before making a life-altering decision. SB 1318 accomplishes both of these goals. Arizona’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, makes SB 1318 critically necessary. Not only does Planned Parenthood continue to advocate for taxpayer money to subsidize their abortion business, but recently, Planned Parenthood’s Glendale clinic wrongfully informed a woman that there was nothing they could do to reverse her medication abortion. Thankfully, the woman got connected with a local board-certified OB/GYN who was able to start her on a medication regiment to reverse the pill’s effect. She now has a healthy-growing pregnancy.”

Herrod, who does not give a rip about rape victims and does not have to pretend to care about them since she’s not in the Arizona Legislature, stayed on her own message about “taxpayers” (a group that apparently does not include pro-choice people or women who have abortions) and a ridiculous and discredited theory about “abortion reversal”. That speaks volumes about how the anti-choice movement, despite the lip service sometimes paid to “rape exceptions” by their politicians, has no intention of honoring them in any meaningful way. Which is no surprise since anti-choice activists oppose rape exceptions anyway.

AZ anti-choice legislators actually think you can reverse an abortion

11 Mar 2015 04:06 pm
Posted by: Donna

SB1318 was already bad enough. The anti-choice bill would bar any insurance exchange operating in the state (including the ACA) from covering abortion even if the woman purchased a separate rider, on the theory that money out of a woman’s own damn pocket that she earned herself is somehow “taxpayer dollars”. It also mandates that abortion doctors report to the state health director that they have admitting privileges at a local hospital, a requirement that opponents say could expose personal information about doctors to dangerous anti-choice zealots. But they weren’t done. Now there’s this amendment.

I’ll let the excellent Robin Marty give you the gist of it:

The Arizona legislature took an unprecedented step Tuesday during a late night hearing, amending a bill that would block abortion coverage in insurance plans purchased through the Affordable Care Act and inserting a new rule requiring that abortion providers inform patients that the procedure could in fact be reversed—despite no substantiated medical evidence to support that charge…

…with the addition of an amendment by Republican Rep. Kelly Townsend, the bill now would require that as part of the so-called “informed consent” material offered prior to an abortion, the doctor must tell the patient that in the case of a medical abortion, “It may be possible to reverse the effects of a medication abortion if the woman changes her mind, but that time is of the essence.”

The doctor would also tell the patient that “information on and assistance with reversing the effects of a medication abortion is available on the Department of Health’s website.”

Earlier this afternoon, I found myself trying to explain the “abortion reversal” concept to my incredulous boyfriend and found it difficult to do so because, like so many anti-choice myths and obsessions, it’s fantasy-based, but here goes: Medication abortion is a two-pill process in which a patient takes mifepristone first, followed by misoprostol several hours later. Some anti-choicers are now claiming to have successfully reversed medication abortions by persuading women who have taken the first pill – after which they immediately stumbled into a Crisis Pregnancy center, I guess – to not take the second one. The mifepristone is supposedly counteracted by having a doctor administer a large dose of progesterone* to the woman and then, voila, the pregnancy is saved! If that sounds at all plausible to you remember that we are talking about anti-choicers here. Here’s what actual medical professionals have to say about “abortion reversal”:

“There’s no evidence of any demonstrable effect of the ‘treatment’ these anti-abortion centers are marketing,” Dr. Cheryl Chastine, a provider at South Wind Women’s Center in Wichita, Kansas, said. “The medical literature is quite clear that mifepristone on its own is only about 50 percent effective at ending a pregnancy. That means that even if these doctors were to offer a large dose of purple Skittles, they’d appear to have ‘worked’ to ‘save’ the pregnancy about half the time. Those numbers are consistent with what these people are reporting.”

Dr. Chastine isn’t alone in her assessment. Dr. Dan Grossman, vice president for research at Ibis Reproductive Health, told Iowa Public Radio that the “treatment” was unlikely to be doing anything at all.

“[The abortion pill] binds much more tightly to the progesterone receptor, to block it than progesterone itself does,” Grossman told reporter Sarah Boden. “So there really is not much evidence to indicate, I’m really not aware of anything, that by increasing the amount of progesterone you’re gonna somehow block the effect of this drug.” He then added, “I think this is really outside of standard of care to just begin doing this kind of treatment, without collecting more rigorous studies about its effectiveness.”

If this “abortion reversal” nonsense isn’t enough to convince you that all the posturing that anti-choicers do about “safety” is a pile of unmitigated horseshit, I don’t know what it will take. I’m sure I’ll have more on #SB1318 when I get a chance to watch the Federalism Committee from Wednesday morning.

*By any doctor, in an ER or clinic or office or wherever. Since it’s an “abortion reversal” all the demands put on abortion doctors (admitting privileges and whatnot) are magically unnecessary. How convenient.

The ASU Foundation’s dark money contribution to Corp Comm race illustrates everything that is wrong with private “philanthropy” and dark money

11 Mar 2015 02:47 am
Posted by: Donna

Per AZ Republic reporter Ryan Randazzo:

The non-profit that raises money for Arizona State University accepted money from Arizona Public Service Co. in 2013 and the same year donated to a political group that helped defeat pro-solar candidates in last year’s elections.

The ASU Foundation accepted $181,000 from the non-profit APS Foundation and made a $100,000 donation to a political group called “Save Our Future Now,” which played heavily in the political campaigns last year for the Corporation Commission.

The non-profit, investigative Sunlight Foundation in Washington, D.C., first reported the donations Tuesday, citing public tax records from the non-profits.

Predictably, the ASU Foundation and APS responded with defensiveness.

“That contribution is consistent with our mission, which in part is to advocate on behalf of ASU and advance higher education,” [John] Skinner [chief of staff for the ASU Foundation] said. “There is absolutely nothing in our intent whatsoever that could be connected to any solar-energy issues or debates or whatever.”…

…APS issued a statement saying that the utility’s foundation is proud to support Arizona universities. “Where the ASU Foundation directs its own contributions … is guided by the foundation’s judgment and expertise, not ours,” the statement said.

And a candidate for Arizona Corporation Commission who was at the receiving end of some rather ugly (putting it mildly) negative spending by Save Our Future Now had this to say:

Vernon Parker, a Republican candidate who faced opposition advertising from SOFN in the 2014 election cycle, questioned the explanation. “Oh boy, I tell you, if anyone believes that, I have a bridge to sell them between Paradise Valley and Scottsdale,” he said.

I’m on Parker’s side here. Unfortunately for both of us, however, the Supreme Court decided that dark money should get a free path to influence elections. But the perfect conduit in which APS possibly laundered $100K to the Arizona Corp Comm race to help elect anti-solar candidates, the ASU Foundation, existed long before the Citizens United decision.

Arizona State University has become world-renowned for its Global Institute of Sustainability. No one would be taken seriously if they said that ASU was anti-solar energy. Trust me when I say that ASU is down like four flat tires with solar.

The ASU Foundation, on the other hand, while it does raise some money for the school, mainly exists to puff up the “pillar of the community” cred of rich guys like Bill Post. And that Foundation appears to have funneled a large donation to a dark money group opposing pro-solar candidates, while benefiting, as an organization, from ASU’s reputation for promoting sustainability. That allowed them to screw solar in the 2014 election with plausible deniability. “How can you say I don’t support solar energy? Why, I’m the Chair of the ASU Foundation!”

This scandal illustrates everything that is wrong with the notion that private philanthropy can replace a government of the people. Arizona’s constitution dictates that college should be as close to free as possible and that it should be paid for via sale of state trust lands and taxation. State college funding should certainly be free from dependence on self-interested rich guys deliberately undermining democracy while pretending to be advancing “social welfare”. They were doing this long before Citizens United. That decision just made it way easier.

Impressive response by Arizona Business Leaders™ to the terrible budget

10 Mar 2015 02:45 am
Posted by: Donna

Photo: AZ Chamber of Commerce and Industry announcement

By “impressive”, of course, I mean “pathetic”. The GOP led AZ Legislature dropped a turd of a budget in the middle of Friday night/Saturday morning that guts (among other things) university and community college funding and – because this is the cruelest session toward poor people that I’ve seen since I moved here in 1997 – cuts millions in Medicaid assistance, limits Temporary Assistance to Needy Families to an arbitrary lifetime cap of one year, and fails to fund child abuse and neglect prevention.

Conservative operative Shawn McCoy had some interesting observations about the budget process, one of which was this:

“This is a remarkable change from business-as-usual in Arizona,” said Glenn Hamer, CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which took no position on the budget. “The governor ran as a businessperson and made it clear he’d get the state’s fiscal house in order. It’s been a very good two months in office for the governor.”

Hamer noted that everyone would rather see a situation in Arizona where there were huge budget surpluses. That’s not the hand Ducey was dealt. But he points to measures in the new budget to protect taxpayers, strengthen schools, and continue to phase in tax reductions. “The vast majority of the business community understands and appreciates that the Governor did the difficult work, brought the legislature together, worked for better K-12 education, and created a better business environment,” explained Hamer.

Someone should really take Hamer aside and explain what “taking a position” means. This isn’t the first time the AZ Chamber has been officially “neutral” on a controversial measure out of one side of its mouth while praising it out of the other or, as in the case of SB1070 in 2010, getting a major concession (to illegal employers) so as to go “neutral”. Seriously, Glenn and AZ Chamber members, enjoy the jumbo shrimp at that Scott Walker shindig, and your tax cuts.

I’ve had people accuse me of unfairly making the AZ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (which is a well-known arm of the GOP and of crackpot right wing supply-sider ideology) out to be the face of the business community in Arizona. I’ll say there’s some merit to that, as there are many business owners in this state who are forward-thinking progressives or moderates. But the AZ Chamber boasts a membership list and board that includes every major company in Arizona and is seen as the premiere lobbyist of their collective interests.

I also haven’t seen a whole lot of resistance from the more local Chambers. It’s been crickets from the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and here’s what you get when you click on the Tempe Chamber’s (“recognized voice at state and national levels and regularly takes positions on legislation affecting the business environment”) link to their “latest state and federal agendas”:

So our local Business Leaders™ haven’t exactly been forthcoming with full-throated opposition to that harsh austerity budget. A notable exception is the Tucson Chamber:

At a press conference earlier this afternoon, there was a huge concern for the $30 million in possible cuts to Joint Technical Education Districts.

News of a budget deal between Gov. Doug Ducey and GOP leaders arose late Monday, and today the heads of Tucson Unified, Sunnyside Unified, Vail Unified, Sahuarita Unified school districts, as well as JTED and representatives with the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, demanded legislators to vote against it and persuaded all voters to put pressure on the state government to stop the abuse, and realize (as if it weren’t obvious enough already) that education, business and economy go hand-in-hand—there is no way to cripple one without crippling the other.

Good on Tucson business people for recognizing that (duh) you can’t have prosperity without universal high quality education! Yay, them. Still, the overwhelming consensus coming from our Almighty Job Creators™ here has ranged from happiness over the shitty anti-public education and poor-punishing budget to a gaping yawn. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the idea that “pragmatic business leaders” are the best people to put in charge of our government.

“But Donna, what about SB1062?”

Yes, it is true that our sainted Business Leaders™ emerged (at the last minute) to put the kibosh on that bigoted pile of gobshite last year. But it was out of fear of boycotts and of being sued by individuals (a class that includes their employees). It was an immediate consideration of their profits and possible liabilities, not a far-reaching concern for the social and economic health of our state. It’s a mistake to see SB1062 as anything other than an outlier.

Who must “live within means” in Arizona depends greatly upon their importance to Governor Ducey

05 Mar 2015 12:20 pm
Posted by: Donna

The budget deal struck by Governor Doug Ducey and GOP legislators (with no input from Democrats, apparently) cuts millions from colleges and health care providers, while giving what could passes for an “increase” to K-12 education if you squint hard (and pretend the state will never have to restore the $317 million in funding as they were ordered by the court). Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs (D-Central Phoenix), in no exaggeration, called it a “bad, bad budget” and possibly “the worst budget ever” on Twitter Wednesday.

Quoth Governor Ducey:

“Before you can have prosperity, everyone needs to live within their means,” Ducey told The Arizona Republic. “This idea of spending money that you don’t have is just irresponsible. So when you’re talking about opportunity for all, you want to provide that across the board for our citizens. This budget reflects our values as Arizonans — it protects the Department of Child Safety, it protects the most vulnerable. And we’re asking some folks to tighten their belt.”

None of that is true, with the exception of “And we’re asking some folks to tighten their belt”. Let’s parse the rest:

Before you can have prosperity, everyone needs to live within their means.

If everyone lived entirely within their means, the entire financial edifice and consumer-based economy would collapse. The vast majority of people would never be able to buy a home or be able to afford a college education. Practically no one would start a business (like, say, a Cold Stone Creamery franchise), as that often involves borrowing and always entails risk. While neither an individual nor the state should squander money indiscriminately, starving oneself of basic survival needs or refusing opportunities to advance so as to adhere to some arbitrarily imposed spending limit is dumb and rarely leads to prosperity.

This idea of spending money that you don’t have is just irresponsible.

Again, everyone who ever bought a home on a mortgage or financed a college education through loans is irresponsible? And Arizona’s current lack of revenue to fund education and health care fully is no force majuere. It is the direct result of a bone-stupid constitutional amendment and two decades of tax cuts following it.

So when you’re talking about opportunity for all, you want to provide that across the board for our citizens.

This might be the biggest whopper of the bunch. I don’t know about you, but when I think “opportunity across the board”, I don’t think “cut millions in funding to community colleges and universities!” I’m weird that way.

This budget reflects our values as Arizonans — it protects the Department of Child Safety, it protects the most vulnerable.

No, this one might be the biggest whopper. Anyone with a glancing familiarity with the plight of abused and neglected children in Arizona knows that the “pro-life” politicians in charge here are not terribly interested in mitigating those children’s situations via robust funding of a full range of child protective services. Also, proposing cuts to hospital reimbursement for Medicaid is not a great way of looking out for the most vulnerable people in our state.

The deal also is getting complaints from hospitals.

Ducey’s original plan cut the reimbursement rate the state pays for Medicaid patients by 3 percent. Greg Vigdor, president of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, said that was probably manageable.

But the new deal makes the cut 5 percent, a figure Vigdor said means a $120 million loss for hospitals.

He called that “simply unsustainable for a health-care industry that remains so critical to the Arizona economy.”

But don’t think that Gov. Ducey isn’t looking out for people! People who matter to him, that is. Corporations are still on course to get the $675 million they’ve been promised over the next three years. They are most certainly not among the people that Doug Ducey is asking to tighten belts. Arizona, I do believe that you elected your first snowbird for Governor last November. While many GOP legislators here actually do have to care about what their constituents think at least sometimes, our new Governor appears to see no reason to.

Center for Arizona Policy is poll dancing!

02 Mar 2015 03:25 am
Posted by: Donna

news.stlpublicradio.org

The militant God-botherers at the Center for Arizona Policy are positively giddy over a poll they conducted that they claim shows the country is on their side on same sex marriage.

Impressive! But, oh wait, here’s what another poll says when people are asked specifically about same sex marriage:

And let’s poll dance on over on to this other set of polls about another type of marriage that was oh-so-controversial not a few years ago:

It took an entire twenty four years after the Loving v Virginia decision for Americans to get used to the idea of interracial marriage enough to give it a bare majority in public opinion. But they got used to it. Enough to elect a President who was the product of such a marriage in 1961, back when maybe 10% of the country supported such a thing. Settle down, Cathi Herrod, and stop wasting your time with the push polls.