Category Archives: Ethics

Ducey & #AZLeg Debate Gun Violence Prevention Ideas

Arizona House Democrats

Arizona House Democrats call the Governor’s gun safety plan a “missed opportunity” at meaningful reform to curb gun violence and the loss of innocent lives.

Since the Parkland High School massacre a few weeks ago, students across the country have been demanding that elected officials do their jobs and protect them against gun violence in schools and other public places.

Last week, 75 students visited the Arizona Legislature and the Governor’s Tower to ask for legislation on universal background checks, banning bump stocks, and more counselors (not more guns) in schools.

Yesterday, Governor Doug Ducey revealed his plan to tackle gun violence in Arizona. It nips around the edges of what students and others have been demanding on social media, in our Legislative email inboxes, and in the streets, but it falls short of meaningful reform. For example, Ducey’s plan does include a small amount of money for more school counselors. Currently, Arizona has a ratio of approximately 1:920 counselors to students. The national recommendation is 1:250. Ducey’s bill would add ~120 new counselors– far less than needed. As with the opioid bill, Ducey met with a small group of Republican and Democratic Legislators to compile this plan, but this time, Ducey didn’t include any of the Democrats’ ideas.  (Read the mainstream media’s take on  Ducey’s plan here or read the Blue Meanie’s take here.)

What else could be done in Arizona? Below the fold, you’ll find a list of Democratic bills that never got a hearing.

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The social media leg of the Special Counsel’s Russia investigation comes into focus (Updated)

Cambridge Analytica is a company created by Robert Mercer, a billionaire patron of right-wing outlets like Breitbart News. Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, is a board member. Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Steve Bannon, is a former vice president of Cambridge Analytica, and the former editor of Breitbart News. Trump confidant Gen. Michael Flynn also had “a brief advisory role” with Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica, the shady data firm that might be a key Trump-Russia link, explained:

Cambridge Analytica specializes in what’s called “psychographic” profiling, meaning they use data collected online to create personality profiles for voters. They then take that information and target individuals with specifically tailored content.

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In June 2016, the Trump campaign hired Cambridge Analytica to take over its data operations.

We know from the reporting of Nicholas Confessore and Danny Hakim at the New York Times that Jared Kushner, who was charged with overseeing Trump’s digital operations, is the reason Cambridge Analytica joined the Trump campaign.

Kushner hired a man named Brad Parscale, a Texas-based digital expert who had worked previously for team Trump. According to Confessore and Hakim, Cambridge Analytica convinced Parscale (who has since agreed to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee) to “try out the firm.” The decision was reinforced by Trump’s campaign manager, Steve Bannon, a former vice president of Cambridge Analytica.

It’s not clear to what extent Cambridge Analytica helped (Parscale denied that Cambridge was of any use in a recent 60 Minutes interview), but we do know that Trump’s digital operation was shockingly effective. Samuel Woolley, who heads the Computational Propaganda project at Oxford’s Internet Institute, found that a disproportionate amount of pro-Trump messaging was spread via automated bots and anti-Hillary propaganda. Trump’s bots, they reported at the time of the election, outnumbered Clinton’s five to one.

Pro-Trump programmers “carefully adjusted the timing of content production during the debates, strategically colonized pro-Clinton hashtags, and then disabled activities after Election Day.”

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The March Madness of King Donald

The “Friday night news dump” of things the White House wants to delay media scrutiny of until the following week has been raised to an art form in the Trump administration. It has become a Friday night “wheel of fortune” to see which member of the administration is being fired or replaced this Friday.

Prior to Friday night, the breaking news story was retired four-star Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey slamming President Donald Trump as a “serious threat to U.S. national security” for his failure to protect the nation from “active Russian attacks.” McCaffrey accused Trump in a tweet Friday of being “under the sway” of Russian President Vladimir Putin” for some “unknown reason.”

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That lede got buried when Confederate Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who is supposed to be recused from anything to do with the Russia investigation, fired former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe only 48 hours before he was set to retire, something President Trump had foreshadowed he would do out of spite back in December.

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Deputy Director McCabe was in charge of the FBI’s Russia investigation for a period of time, and he is a key fact witness in the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the obstruction of justice portion of the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Sessions has clearly violated his recusal, signaling his willingness to do it again for others at the request of “Dear Leader.”

Sessions short-circuited the normal review process in federal personnel matters in order to carry out the petty vindictiveness of “Dear Leader.” He relied on an Inspector General report and a FBI report that have not yet been made public. Andrew McCabe, a Target of Trump’s F.B.I. Scorn, Is Fired Over Candor Questions:

Andrew G. McCabe, the former F.B.I. deputy director and a frequent target of President Trump’s scorn, was fired Friday after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rejected an appeal that would have let him retire this weekend.

Mr. McCabe is accused in a yet-to-be-released internal report of failing to be forthcoming about a conversation he authorized between F.B.I. officials and a journalist.

In a statement released late Friday, Mr. Sessions said that Mr. McCabe had shown a lack of candor under oath on multiple occasions.

“The F.B.I. expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity and accountability,” he said. “I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately.”

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Governor Ducey bends under pressure from student protestors

Wednesday’s National School Walkout event at the Arizona Capitol culminated in a two-hour sit-in at the office of Gov. Doug Ducey, who did not come out to meet with the students. Montini: Gov. Doug Ducey disses student protesters … lesson learned.

Gov. Ducey has said he is meeting with various interest groups – not high school students, obviously – and has promised to come up with his own legislative proposals, possibly as early as next week. The governor has hinted that could include something similar to Rep. Randy Friese’s bill on emergency seizure of weapons.

Emulating our Twitter-troll-in-chief, on Thursday Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey goes on tweetstorm over gun control, one day after student sit-in:

Gov. Doug Ducey said Thursday that his plan to improve school safety in Arizona could include tighter gun laws in several areas, a surprising move for a Republican governor in a red state.

In a flurry of afternoon tweets, Ducey outlined what his office said will be the basic components of his plan. Ducey said he is working on a bipartisan bill to tackle the issue.

“We are building an aggressive plan that address all these issues around school safety,” he tweeted. “Arizona can lead the nation in tackling this — and in a way that is non-partisan. We’ve done this on other issues, and we can do it again.”

Ducey’s posts came less than 24 hours after students from the group March for Our Lives Phoenix staged a dramatic sit-in outside his office.

Ducey did not meet with the students, but has talked with other interest groups in recent weeks.

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Whiny Republicans respond to student protests at the Arizona Capitol

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley covered this story from her perspective the other day, Republicans Recess as Students & #AZHouse Dems Stand in Silence for Gun Violence Victims, and now Howard Fischer reports on the GOP perspective the following day, Republicans accuse Democrats of political theater over gun legislation:

A Prescott Republican lawmaker lashed out at Democrats Thursday, accusing them of being more interested in political “theater” than solving the question of gun violence in schools.

Rep. Noel Campbell said all lawmakers are upset about the shootings at Majory Stoneman High School in Florida, and he acknowledged the anger and frustration of students who walked out of their classrooms a day earlier on the one-month anniversary of that event.

“But I have a feeling some of you down here just want to be seen and not do anything,” Campbell said in his floor speech, citing not only the presence of students in the gallery on March 14 but also Democrats taking close to an hour to introduce the students by name and call attention to them and their demands for changes in state gun laws.

That, Campbell said, is not the way “to get things done.”

“It hardens positions,” he said, with the “theater” of Wednesday resulting in many Republicans choosing to leave the floor rather than sit through the introduction of individual students and the Democrat floor speeches.

“You drove us out of here,” Campbell said, saying Democrats are not interested in working with Republicans.

“You want to make an example of us. You want to embarrass us,” he said. “Well, see how effective that is.”

Campbell said if Democrats are interested in legislative solutions, they should forego these kinds of public spectacles and instead work with Republicans behind closed doors.

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Stormy clouds over the Trump White House: 60 Minutes and a court date

On March 6, 2018, adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, filed a lawsuit (and attached exhibits) (.pdf) to void a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) with Donald Trump, identified by the alias David Dennison in the NDA, drafted and entered into by Michael Cohen, the “top attorney” and “fixer” for the Trump organization, on October 28, 2016.

Stormy Daniels received $130,000 in payment (consideration) for the NDA through Essential Consultants, LLC, formed on October 17, 2016 by Cohen, to hide the true source of funds that Cohen claims that he paid from his own personal funds from his home-equity line of credit. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen says he paid Stormy Daniels with his home-equity line.

Note: This is a violation of the Rules for Professional Conduct for attorneys, which has resulted in complaints being filed against Michael Cohen (discussed below).

Earlier this week Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, made a settlement offer to Donald Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen: Stormy Daniels offered to return a $130,000 payment she received from President Trump’s lawyer in 2016, in a bid to speak freely about a months-long affair she alleges she and the president began having in 2006. The deadline to accept the settlement offer or to proceed to trial has since expired.

The trial court has now set the hearing date. Hearing set in Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit against Trump: The hearing date has been set for July 12 at the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The lawsuit said Trump never signed a hush agreement to keep Daniels quiet late in the 2016 campaign about an alleged sexual encounter between the two before Trump was president.

The lawsuit said Cohen had signed it on Trump’s behalf and therefore the agreement was void.

The lawsuit also accuses Cohen of continuing the efforts to “intimidate Ms. Clifford into silence and ‘shut her up'” by initiating a “bogus” arbitration proceeding last month without notifying Daniels or allowing due process.

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