Tuesday, September 23, 2014

ARIZONA'S BONE-HEADED BATTLE NOT TO FUND EDUCATION




The Arizona State legislature is fighting against fully funding K-12 education. One has to wonder: what's wrong with these people?

During the so-called Great Recession, the legislature decided that cutting taxes and cutting funds for education were the smart way to go. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Arizona made the deepest cuts to education in the nation — a drop of 21.8 percent from fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2013, after adjusting for inflation. The move to not fully fund education resulted in a lawsuit by educators. A year ago, the State Supreme Court handed down a decision that the legislature was in error. A voter-approved initiative required them to make the adjustments for inflation. The case was then handed back to the Maricopa County Superior Court for payment details to be worked out.

Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper ruled in July that the state must pay $1.6 billion in new funding, over five years, in order to bring Arizona schools up to the level where they should be. In August, she ordered that the first payment, $317 million, was due.

Now, September is almost over. Have the schools seen a dime of that money? Yeah, right — just as many dimes as there are dandelions growing at the North Pole. Instead of paying up, the state once again appealed the ruling, asking for a stay until the appeal is heard. In the meantime, schools have begun another year suffering from a lack of all the basics — library books, textbooks, and teachers, to name a few.

According to Casa Grande Elementary School District Superintendent Frank Davidson, his district is unable to attract and retain teachers:
"Across the state, hundreds of teaching positions have not been filled this year. What's a new teacher to do but choose where they are going to make the most money?"
That would not be a teaching position in Arizona, where official support for education is as thin as ice covering a hot spring and where the challenge of large classroom sizes is mushrooming.

AZ Gov Jan Brewer
At the college level, there has been open hostility to funding, in spite of the state's constitutional mandate that it be done, and at a reasonable cost. But then, looking at the example of who we elect to lead us, perhaps it's no wonder education is in peril. The highest educational achievement of Governor Jan Brewer is a community college certificate as a radiological technologist. As for the legislature, sixteen percent had no college experience as of June, 2011. That's not 16% who don't have college degrees, but 16% who don't have ANY experience at the college level.

The people in charge of funding education seem to have little concept of its value, of what it can do for society. In January, the head of the state House Appropriations Committee, Rep. John Kavanagh, lamented that too many people go to college. He said:
"We spread limited money over a large area, and we have a lot of college graduates who are working in retail and food service jobs. Is that really a good way to spend money?"
Why wouldn't it occur to the man that graduates are working in retail and food service jobs because that's what Arizona attracts? Kavanaugh showed total ignorance of this basic fact. Rick Myers, chairman of the Board of Regents, pointed out exactly why Arizona was hit so hard — harder than most other states — by the recession:
“It’s because we went into it with one of the lowest per-capita incomes, with one of the lowest-educated workforces in the nation. We haven’t had the robust economy we need to isolate ourselves from some of this.”
So the legislature lowers taxes to attract businesses who then have to rely on a poorly educated populace to work for them. Why would top-tier businesses locate in Arizona under those circumstances? From the hostility to educating Arizonans at the college level, all the way down the ladder to the deprivation of elementary school children, the state is failing in its duty. Over half a million children who have started school in Arizona since 2009 have never attended a fully funded school. Timothy Ogle, executive director of the Arizona School Boards Association, called the number "a disturbing milestone".

There has been zero leadership on this issue. The legislature and the governor are still kicking the responsibility down the road — to seek delays in funding until a new legislature and a new chief executive take office in January.

So, okay, Arizona voters! Seize the reins! If we want our kids to have a fair shot at life, we need to make radically different choices about who leads us.

Start with the election of a new state superintendent. An actual educator, David Garcia, is running. This crucial office has been shamefully held by conservative career politicians looking for a step up to higher office. Tom Horne and John Huppenthal — I'm looking at you! Garcia, an associate professor at A.S.U., has spent his career in education. He's held positions under three state superintendents — both Republican and Democratic — and has been a consultant to the U.S. Department of Education. AND, he has bipartisan support.

Gubernatorial Candidate Fred DuVal
Moving on to governor, the choice is vital and clear. Democrat Fred DuVal is ready to make the first payout to schools as quickly as he can after taking office. The  money is to come from the state's $455 million 'rainy day' fund. Republican Doug Ducey, on the other hand, has vowed to continue the appeals over funding education, to continue kicking that can down the road beyond January, until the process is exhausted.

We've been cheating hundreds of thousands of Arizona's kids out of a decent education for years of  conservative GOP rule. I'd say we've arrived at our 'rainy day'. I'd say either we use this crisis to pry open state coffers — or we let our children drown.

Friday, September 19, 2014

???s We Need To Ask About The Beheadings Videos...And Going To War

America Held Hostage by GabrielleKelly 

As I tried to avoid looking at the grisly videos of the beheadings of American journalists, a strange thing happened. The more I read, the more I realized that most other people avoided looking at them too, even (perhaps especially) journalists. Over and over again, I watched news reports and read articles put out by people who said, 'I don't need to watch the videos to know how barbaric and brutal they are'. And yet, the clamor for war is based on these images and has been deafening.

In England, citizens were threatened with charges of terrorism simply for the act of watching the videos, which were withdrawn from YouTube. Still, the call for war went on.

So I searched for descriptions of what the videos really showed and made an amazing discovery. None of the videos, including the one of a British aid worker, show the act of beheading. They show a scripted recitation by the captive, followed by an anti-Western outburst by the 'jihadist'. The captive is on his knees. The jihadist makes cutting motions at his throat with a knife — and the camera pans away. Then a still shot of a body, with the supposed head of the captive propped up on it, appears onscreen.

What's going on here? Am I to believe that this brutal entity, ISIS, is too considerate of Western sensibilities to actually show beheadings? That they mean to horrify us by sparing us, at the last moment, from witnessing the full extent of their viciousness? I asked a couple of readers on Facebook, who did watch the video of journalist James Foley, what they actually saw. One wrote:
"Vague statements, hollywood like production. A knife swipes a neck 7 times, yet the 'victim' doesn't move or wince and no blood is visible, then it cuts to black, then pans a still image of a head on top of a body that might be real if you believe your eyes."
Another sent me two stills from the video. One is the assassin, supposedly in the act of swiping the knife across the kneeling man's neck — but, indeed, there is no blood and Foley shows no visible reaction to being cut.

A reader responding to a British blog on why no one should ever watch the Foley video wrote that she did watch it. She reported:
"The actual beheading, if it took place is not actually shown. The video was professionally made, using more than one camera, so it is likely the voice [allegedly with a British accent] was altered as well electronically. It is possible it is real, it is equally possible it was faked. Would need an expert to analyse it. I cannot help but wonder at the real reason it was removed from UTube so very quickly."
The UK's Mirror posted a recap of the video that alleged showing the beheading of aid worker David Haine. It says, in part:
"The executioner holds a knife to his throat and begins a cutting motion before the camera fades out.
"When it fades back in, the footage appears to show the head of Mr. Haines on his decapitated body."
Now I don't know if these beheadings actually happened or not, but I'm alarmed that no one else does, either. None of the bodies have been retrieved, which is the only sure proof. I do know that  'U.S. intelligence officials' have verified the authenticity of the videos. But I also know that these same U.S. intelligence officials once verified that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. And I know that the very people who goaded us into the war with Iraq are back on the airwaves, using these images to prod us into battle once more — among them Dick Cheney, John McCain, and Lindsay Graham. Plus, a plethora of former Pentagon officials, who also have financial ties to the defense industry, have swarmed onto TV shows to issue their call to arms.

In large part, Americans aren't questioning the story they're being fed. They want action because of their emotional reaction to something they haven't fully witnessed. Across the ideological board, a majority supports renewed bombing. It's disturbing that, as a people, we are not given to reflection, questioning, or thoughtful analysis. Nevertheless, we need to know. Now, not at some future point when we're trying to mop up the consequences with futile Congressional investigations.

Where did ISIS come from? Are we sure they are responsible for the videos? What is the evidence that these 'beheadings' are real? If the videos are considered credible, what has been done to recover the bodies of James Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines? What has been done to locate and bring to justice the responsible assassins? Why is bombing preferable to justice, especially since innocent civilians are no doubt going to die? Why should these videos be a turning point in our willingness to be re-involved in the Middle East? Why should we ever be involved in trying to manage Middle Eastern affairs again?

George W. Bush once famously said, " ... fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again .... "

Hah! Would that it were true.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

ARIZONA'S SENATORS PUT LIMITS ON CONSTITUENTS, NOT ON CORPORATE MONEY

Keep corporations out of elections, voters away from Senators
 While Senate Republicans were busy voting to block the constitutional amendment that would get dirty money out of elections, Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake were also busy with other limits —ones they could place on constituents who voiced their objections.


Last Thursday, about 45 voters showed up at Sen. McCain's Arizona office to ask him to co-sponsor the Democracy For All Amendment. The amendment would effectively overturn the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision that called corporations 'people' and allowed vast sums of money into campaign financing. This Thursday, a dozen people again went to the senator's office to ask that he at least vote to support the amendment. After all, McCain was once a proponent of campaign finance reform. In 2012, he even called the Citizens United decision "the worst decision ever". What a difference two years makes!

As the group of constituents assembled outside the building, holding 'Corporations Are Not People' and 'Keep Corporations Out Of Elections' signs, McCain's office manager, Meghan Kielty, came out to greet them and put up at least an initial facade of friendliness. While starting out by telling the group they were welcome to come into the office, she immediately put her hand over the camera lens of CBS 5's photojournalist, Juan Magaña, and said, "No filming" — a directive which Magaña ignored. After all, we were still standing outside.

The group moved indoors to the lobby, but before they could enter the senator's office, a male staffer stood in the door and stated that only ten people could come in. The week before, the stated limit was ten to fifteen. Nevertheless, the group cooperated and counted out ten as they entered. Kielty barred journalist Magaña from entering, so he stood and filmed from the lobby, through the glass wall.

The spokesperson, Dan O'Neal of Progressive Democrats of America, began to tell Kielty what the group wanted but was immediately interrupted by the male staffer who demanded to search all purses as a 'security measure' — a new strong-arm tactic that not only didn't come into play the week before, but which he gave up after searching only half of the purses. Security? Obviously not. The move was pure harassment. He immediately disappeared into the inner sanctum. O'Neal's statement was completed in less than a minute and this oh-so-threatening-looking 'crowd' left.

Mary Baumbach enforcing '3 people at a time'
The next stop was directly across the street at Sen. Jeff Flake's office. Only two people got through the door before office manager Mary Baumbach issued her order: three people at a time. O'Neal was among the first, so he could make his statement about why they were there. Everyone else filed in, three at a time, to fill out forms specifying their purpose. The journalist was again left to film from the lobby while members of the group pressed their 'Corporations Are Not People' signs against the glass. Shortly, the building manager showed up to demand that everyone in the lobby go outside — one of the perks, apparently, of an elected official renting a public office in a private building.

The journalist had to stand in the lobby, too
So Thursday was once again a visual lesson in our taxpayer dollars at work. Senators' staffers strive not to facilitate the voice of the people so they can accurately communicate the message to their bosses, but rather they are primarily interested in limiting the public's access to our 'public servants'; in limiting the visual images of voters disagreeing with their bosses; and sometimes in harassing the voters with the intention, no doubt, of getting them to stop. Yet at no point were group members disruptive or disrespectful. They were simply present.

All this unfolded at the very moment when, in Washington, D.C., Senators McCain and Flake voted to betray the people's will. They and every other Republican senator voted to stop the Democracy For All Amendment in its tracks, even though a majority of Americans want limits on campaign donations. It's not that the senators don't know how to set limits. They have refined the process into an art — when it comes to their constituents. However, with corporations and the millions they pour into campaign coffers, there's no sign our duly elected, and well-funded, representatives will ever call a halt.

Welcome to America, where politicians recognize corporations as people, but give scant respect to human beings.




Tuesday, September 9, 2014

FIVE REASONS WHY WE SHOULDN'T PANIC OVER ISIS



The United States and its allies are in a panic about ISIS (Islamic State In Iraq and Syria). Every day, this brutal entity seizes headlines. Politicians are whipping up a frenzy by characterizing the group as the greatest threat to civilization ever known. Senator Dianne Feinstein wrote an op-ed that spread across the country in which she said:
"The threat ISIS poses cannot be overstated. This is the most vicious, well-funded and militant terrorist organization we have ever seen, and it is very quickly consolidating its power."
On the contrary, the threat ISIS poses can be — and has been — overstated. Thank you, Senator Feinstein. The reasons may be varied, but certainly, the need for corporations to sustain their war profits and the desire to distract from other events in the Middle East (such as Israel's human rights abuses in Gaza, or of the Syrian government against its people) are among the prime suspects.

For a more rational view of ISIS, I turned to Canada. Not the government, which has joined the panic, but to the CBC News network. Writer Andre Mayer, citing a variety of political analysts, has made the case that ISIS created an illusion that it is more powerful than it really is — and we've bought it, hook, line, and sinker. He acknowledges that the group is dangerous, but not nearly to the degree we seem to think. Here are the reasons why:

1. ISIS has nowhere to go. Although it declared itself a caliphate, it's an occupying entity instead. The areas it occupies are not only weak but they are not even contiguous. To expand any further will require a capability to fight on many fronts against much stronger opponents. Wayne White, a former analyst on Iraq for the U.S. government, says that local leaders of the occupied regions cooperated with ISIS because these were "places where Shia or Kurdish forces wouldn't really fight for those areas."

2. Its list of enemies is long. It includes:
  • the Iraqi government and military
  • Shia militias
  • Moderate Sunnis in Iraq
  • Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria
  • Other Sunni jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria
  • Moderate rebel groups in Syria
  • the Syrian regime
  • the U.S.
  • Iran
  • Turkey
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Lebanese militants Hezbollah
Al Queda might well be added to the list, as the two groups have devolved from a cooperative relationship into a hostile competition over who will lead the movement. Based on observations by White and other analysts, the Mayer article concluded that:
"As a result of all these enmities, ISIS has been forced to fight a battle on multiple fronts — against al-Assad's forces in Syria, the Turkish military near the Turkey-Syria border, the Kurdish peshmerga in Iraq's north, the Iraqi military and Shia militia throughout Iraq and U.S. airstrikes from above."
3. Its list of allies is short. It includes:
  • Members of the Baath party and former Saddam Hussein loyalists
  • Some Iraqi tribal leaders
4. The fierce image of ISIS depends on manipulation of the media. Such manipulation, like the horrific videos of the beheading of journalists, may strike terror in the hearts of Westerners, but the brutality also alienates other jihadists who might otherwise join them. In addition, all the media announcements by the group broadcast its movements in advance, assisting its enemies in effectively countering their military thrust.

5. The number of its members is small. According to Kamran Bokhari, analyst for the geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor, ISIS has only 3,000 to 4,000 core members. He says:
"ISIS as a group is very small, but it's the alliances that they make that make them seem bigger."
For instance, they have been joined by about 5,000 members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party who would like to put an end to Shia dominance in Iraqi politics.

To round out the picture, we need to consider the following factors. ISIS is fighting with weapons the U.S. left behind in its other disastrous involvements. Are we really going to take more weapons into the area? ISIS is exploiting divisions we either created or made worse. Are we going to go in and create more? America is afraid that ISIS will train American terrorists who will return to the U.S. and create havoc in our society. Isn't this the same concern we've been living with since 2001? Has our society fallen while we sit here in fear?


The drumbeat in the media and among politicians is to do something, and do something fast. We've already done something. We intervened in a part of the world that we little understood, and we exacerbated ancient tensions. Those tensions will eventually have to play out and be resolved by the parties involved. We are not one of those parties — and the American public should not be emotionally manipulated into believing, yet again, that we are.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

COALITION ASKS JOHN MCCAIN TO SUPPORT CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT, HITS A GLASS WALL


Activists left outside John McCain's glass wall

On Thursday, a broad coalition of activists met at Senator John McCain's office in an upscale building at a tony Camelback Road address to ask him to sponsor a constitutional amendment. Known as the Democracy For All amendment, it would overturn the Supreme Court 's decision on Citizens United from four years ago. You know — the decision that allowed all that money from 'corporations-are-people-too' into the political process.

The activists represented such groups as Public Citizen, MoveOn.org Political Action, People For the American Way, CREDO Action, Communication Workers of America, Common Cause, Progressive Democrats of America, and Wolf PAC Arizona. They turned over the signatures of thousands of Arizona residents, joining in an action that was taking place across the country on the same day. Hundreds of thousands of petitions were also delivered to senators in Kentucky, Virginia, Louisiana, Indiana, Arkansas, Illinois, Alaska, and New Hampshire.

All were asked to support the Democracy For All amendment, which so far has the backing of 50 senators. It's scheduled for a vote on Monday, September 8th. For anyone who is wondering why the irascible McCain was among those targeted for their support, it might have something to do with his reaction to the original court decision in 2010. At the time, he said:
"I think there will be scandals associated with the worst decision of the United States Supreme Court in the 21st century. Uninformed, arrogant, naive. I just wish one of [the justices] had run for county sheriff. That's why we miss people like [former Chief Justice] William Rehnquist and [former Justice] Sandra Day O'Connor, who had some experience with congressional and other races ... I predict to you that there will be scandals and I predict to you that there will be reform again."
Fine words. So, four years later, what's the holdup in correcting the situation? After all, the proposed amendment allows Congress and the states to limit money spent on candidates and on influencing elections. It allows Congress and states to "distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities". And it emphasizes that the amendment does not grant "the power to abridge the freedom of the press.'' Pretty straightforward, wouldn't you say?

But Senator McCain wasn't in his posh office to greet the activists and give them an answer to their demand. Instead, the group was left in the hands of the private building's management and the senator's front desk staff. Dan O'Neal, state chairman of Progressive Democrats of Arizona, described what happened there as 'mission creep' — referring to the 'mission' of these official-acting persons. First, the group was told they were welcome to assemble in the lobby. However, as O'Neal began to address the group, management (backed by security) changed their minds and said the activists were making too much noise — although only O'Neal was making any noise at all. And even though only one office fronted the lobby — Senator McCain's nearly empty one, where all of two staffers stood staring gape-mouthed through the glass walls.

Inside, by McCain's vanity wall
So the activists agreed to go into the senator's office with their statements, and their box of petitions, which was their goal anyway. Once inside, the two young staffers said that only 10-15 of them could be there at a time, leaving the larger portion of the group outside the glass walls, peering in and holding their "Corporations Are Not People" and "#GetMoneyOut" signs against the glass. As the group shifted to bring some people out and let new people in, building management suddenly decided there were also too many people in the lobby and ordered everyone to leave the building under the threat of arrest for trespassing.

Kicked outside by private security
So this is democracy in action. A U.S. senator rents an office — at taxpayer expense — in a private building where the ability of his constituents to see him is controlled by the employees of this exclusive building. Of course, the Senator's staffers themselves cooperated in trying to curtail the right of Arizonans to be peacefully heard.

If all those glass walls of Senator McCain's office are supposed to represent transparency, they're failing miserably at the task. But doesn't that image represent what this is truly about? — the illusion of transparency that is actually constructed of impenetrable walls, erected between America's politicians and the people they are supposed to represent?

Overturn Citizens United? Don't hold your breath waiting for the cooperation of Congress. Democracy will have to be enforced the same way the United States won it in the first place — by the people, average Americans, taking charge and exerting their will.

Friday, August 29, 2014

CALIFORNIA CITIES LISTEN TO 'TANK THE TANK' MESSAGE, SEND ARMORED VEHICLES PACKING




Events in Ferguson, Missouri have had a positive effect on at least a couple of California cities. As a result of the chaotic images that came out of there, both Davis and San Jose have decided to send their newly-acquired armored vehicles back to the military.

The Davis, CA Police Department just received their mine-resistant armored truck this month. However, at a city council meeting on Tuesday, a crowd appeared to protest the acquisition of the truck. Some of them wore shirts that read "tank the tank". Davis Police Chief Landry Black also showed up — to argue in favor of keeping it. He said:
“These vehicles are not intended for offensive use, like armored artillery or a tank is; they are intended to protect occupants from gunfire or hazards – they are for rescues and occupant protection.”
Whatever the 'intention', Ferguson showed the world that the militarization of city police forces can quickly escalate confrontations with peaceful protesters. While the tanks are 'protecting', they are also isolating the police force from the people they serve. At Tuesday's meeting, Davis City Councilman Robb Davis expressed his concern that such purchases, rather than increasing security, may be destructive by increasing the community's anxiety. Showing that he really absorbed the messages of Ferguson, he added:
"Symbol matters. We are a species that uses symbol, and this symbolizes the most destructive force on the planet, which is the U.S. military."
Ultimately, the city council voted 4-1 to get rid of the vehicle. The police department has 60 days to do so.

Just two days later, San Jose's police department announced that it, too, would get rid of its MRAP (mine-resistant, ambush-protected troop transport). Theirs has not been used, but has been in storage while being outfitted for street use. The department was weighing its pros and cons even before Ferguson exploded into the news. Police spokeswoman Sgt. Heather Randol said:
"It is a useful tool, but we realize it could be viewed by the community as the militarization of SJPD. It could create a divide, and we want the community's trust."
Community trust would seem to be basic to a well-functioning police force. Unfortunately, other Bay Area communities — such as South San Francisco and Redwood — are hanging onto their military equipment while defending their decision. Micaela Davis, an attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, wonders how things got to this point. She praised the San Jose PD for its decision but said:
"It brings up questions about whether it was needed in the first place. It's why public hearings should be required on the front end."
The public should have a say about what they're financing and its impact on them. There's often a big split between their opinions and the attitudes of rank-and-file officers. Sgt. Jim Unland, president of the San Jose Police Officers' Association, spoke for the rank-and-file. He defended having "the best" equipment available, which is military equipment. But LaDoris Cordell, who is both the city's Independent Police Auditor and a retired judge, said:
"SJPD, if it is to continue its efforts to build trust with the communities it serves, must not go down the path of militarization."
The fact that the officers within the department can't grasp that truth is a problem. In the aftermath of Ferguson, every police department in America should be evaluating how to win the public's trust — especially those that are already militarized. Every single police department should be questioning, How do we view the people we serve? Hint: the community should not be viewed as the enemy.





Thursday, August 28, 2014

ARIZONA VOTERS DUMP GOP'S WORST-OF-THE-WORST IN PRIMARY ELECTION




For way too long, many of Arizona's Republican politicians have gotten away with far too much. On Tuesday, voters in the state's primary booted a bunch of them out. In a historical event, two GOP incumbents who hold state-wide offices both lost their primary races.

The first is Tom Horne, the blowhard career politician who is the state's Attorney General. The guy is under multiple investigations for campaign violations by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission, by Yavapai County's attorney, and by private attorneys hired by the state solicitor general. The most egregious allegation is that he and paid state employees worked on his campaign on the taxpayers' dime. To top it all off, an FBI investigation of campaign violations caught the married Horne in a noontime tryst with a former aide during which he was involved in a hit-and-run accident with a parked vehicle.

Horne has blithely shrugged off all charges, plus haughtily dismissed the competition as an 'unknown' without a chance of winning. On Tuesday, however, voters outside of polling stations revealed to the ArizonaRepublic that they wanted anybody-but-Horne in office. They decisively  handed him his hat by giving his competitor, Mark Brnovich, 54% of the vote.

The second is John Huppenthal, state superintendent of schools. He actually succeeded Tom Horne in the superintendency when the latter went on to become attorney general. Huppenthal, too, is a career politician, having held some office or other for the last 30 years. What he hasn't held is any type of position as an educator. Originally a supporter of the national Common Core education standards, he did an about-face, when criticized by other conservatives, and pledged to change Common Core.

However, that was a minor offense compared to what he did anonymously. In June, it was revealed by blogger Bob Lord that Huppenthal used a number of pseudonyms to make blog posts that variously called welfare recipients 'lazy pigs', said Spanish-language media should be shut down, insisted that "It was Darwin who expressed approval of eliminating both Jews and Africans", and blamed Franklin D. Roosevelt for the Great Depressioneven though FDR took office well after the Depression began. 

This is the man who has been responsible for the public education of Arizona's children. And oh, yeah I haven't even mentioned the superintendent's robocalls the ones made early this year urging thousands of parents to obtain state-funded vouchers for private schools rather than send their kids to public ones.

But it's when we get to the nomination for governor that voters hit the trifecta! Again, the news is all about who didn't win. Ken Bennett didn't win. He's the clown of a secretary of state who threatened to remove President Obama from Arizona's 2012 ballot if Hawaii didn't confirm (to his satisfaction) that the president was born there. Hawaii yawned in his face and Bennett ended up apologizing to Arizona voters for embarrassing them. Eighty-eight percent of Tuesday's voters were not stupid enough to award the 2014 nomination for governor to Bennett.

Andrew Thomas didn't win the nomination, either. He's the former Maricopa County Attorney who was disbarred for bringing unfounded criminal charges against the political 'enemies' of himself and his buddy, the scurrilous Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Thomas received a full 8% of Tuesday's vote apparently from people who've either been living under a rock or who believe our elected officials should operate outside of the law.

And lastly, but at least as sweetly, former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith didn't win. The sweetness isn't primarily because Smith is a very conservative politician, although he is. It isn't because of any corruption or abuse of power charges, because none have been leveled against him. No, the sweetness is because he was endorsed by Governor Jan Brewer. Brewer is not-so-affectionately known as the Wicked Witch of the West for her mean-spirited stances on things like drivers's licenses for Dreamers, which she has steadfastly refused to issue even though her ban was overturned in court. In spite of Brewer's endorsement, Smith lost.

I hate to be so wildly irresponsible as to suggest that Arizona Republicans are finally maturing, but things are certainly looking up. And if the worst-of-the-worst politicians can be held accountable in Arizona, maybe just maybe there's hope for the rest of the nation.