Saturday, March 26, 2011

WATCH: Arizona Sen. John McCain On Who Are The Libyan Rebels: "People Didn't Ask... 'Who Would Replace Hitler?'"

Beating the Sunday talk shows to the punch, Channel 12's Brahm Resnik questioned Arizona Senator John McCain today about the present situation in Libya (and other issues).  Besides acknowledging that he told Resnik off-camera that the Libyan issue marks the first time that he regretted that he did not win the 2008 persidential election - though he said he was exaggerating - McCain criticized President Obama ("The contradictions start with the President") and advocated for directly arming the Libyan rebels.

When pressed as to who those rebels are, McCain responded by saying that that is not the question.  "People Didn't Ask... 'Who replace Hitler?'"  He believes that we do know the rebels well enough ("They have a website.") and that it is necessary.

The interview will air tomorrow morning.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

WATCH: Cmdr. Kelly's Statement About Rep. Gabrielle Giffords; Loughner's Mental Exam Will Continue

As Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' thought process continues to improve, that of the young man who attempted to assassinate her - and did kill and wound many others - will continue to be examined.  Giffords' husband updated everyone on her progress yesterday, as part of his NASA news conference in advance of his commanding next month's final mission of the space shuttle Endeavour. Here is Cmdr. Mark Kelly's opening statement:

Meanwhile, U.S. District Court Judge Larry Burns denied requests that he reconsider his order to have alleged murderer Jared Loughner's mental evaluation.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Fifth Beatle" Billy Preston's Bankruptcy Estate Can Continue Wrongful Death/Elder Abuse Against Long-Term Hospital, Says Arizona Supreme Court

The late Billy Preston's bankruptcy estate can pick up and continue a wrongful death and elder abuse lawsuit against the long-term hospital in which he died in 2006.  The Arizona Supreme Court today refused to dismiss the case simply because it had been started by Preston's personal representatives before the Grammy-winners death.

While fighting the complications from a 2002 kidney transplant, Preston filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2005 - the same year he went into a coma.  Following his death in 2006, personal representatives of his estate filed the elder abuse/wrongful death claim in state court.  The bankruptcy was also converted to Chapter 7 (liquidation) and a bankruptcy trustee was assigned.  Kindred Hospitals moved to dismiss the wrongful death claim on the grounds that it should have been filed by the bankruptcy trustee; the trial court agreed.

In a unanimous decision today, the Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' reversal of the trial court and said the case may continue.  The justices ended up by noting that it is "difficult to imagine how the substitution... could result in prejudice" to the hospital.

The late John Lennon had suggested that keyboardist extraordinaire Preston - who had met the Beatles in 1962 and played with them in 1969 (with credit, for Arizona-tinged "Get Back", as well as on "Don't Let Me Down" and the "Abbey Road" album).  He played with three of the four Beatles after the group broke apart, and had several top 10 solo hits (including "Will It Go Round In Circles" and "Nothing From Nothing").  Younger music buffs might remember him from his work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and from his appearance on the (4th) season finale of American Idol.

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FACT CHECK FOLLOW-UP: CBO (Politely) Calls Out GOP - and Schweikert - On Healthcare Law Costs

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office ("CBO" has struck back at the Republicans' use of its report from last Friday, strongly suggesting that the GOP misrepresented its analysis.

Yesterday, Arizona's Politics Fact-Checked Arizona Rep. David Schweikert's (R-CD5) - and the GOP's- claims that the costs associated with the healthcare reform law that went into effect last year had just risen by $500 billion (to $1.445 trillion).  While unable to uncover where they had come up with that number - even in the CBO's budgetary analysis that was apparently the source that the Republicans had latched onto - we noted that Schweikert and fellow Republicans were studiously ignoring the larger picture of the net effect of the law on the federal budget deficit and that the repeal of the law would increase the deficit.

Late yesterday, after the Fact Check was researched and written, but before it was posted, the CBO posted on its Director's blog a clarification of the issue.  It appears that the CBO was not pleased with the selective use of its figures.  (This was probably exacerbated by the fact that the Republicans had been blasting the CBO for its analysis of last year's law and of the GOP proposed repeal.)

While not lending itself to easy quoting, the new CBO blog post does make it clear that: (1) the CBO's adjustments to the estimated cost of expanding health insurance coverage were slight and based on technical changes and updated economic inputs; (2) one cannot automatically infer a re-estimate of the entire budgetary impact of the law; (3) the CBO still is secure in its earlier conclusion that the entire law reduces the deficit through 2021 by approximately $210 billion; (4) that the Republicans' talking point ONLY comes from the "gross effect" of the insurance coverage provisions and blurs different time periods (last year's estimate covered 2010-19 and the new one 2012-21); and (5) that the CBO will continue to make these types of adjustments, and the figures will "probably change again in the future for all of those same reasons."

While adding the caveats that the GOP should have included - that the CBO has not re-estimated the entire budgetary impact - it is reasonable to infer from the CBO's report in February on the estimated total deficit reduction effect of the 2010 healthcare reform law ($210 billion), and the 8.5% increase between February and last week in the estimated net effect of the insurance coverage provisions ($89 billion), (and assuming that the other provisions' estimated effects have not changed since last month) that the estimated total deficit reduction effect of the 2010 healthcare reform law is presently estimated at $121 billion between 2012-2021.  On the other hand, for that same period, repeal of the 2010 healthcare reform law is presently estimated to increase the federal deficit by approximately $121 billion between 2012-2021.

One further addition  to yesterday's Fact Check: we noted that Schweikert claimed that the "job-killing" healthcare reform law added $670 billion dollars in taxes.  Here is a Politifact analysis breaking down the amounts of taxes in the law - they could not come up with a legitimate figure (from the CBO or the Joint Committee on Taxation) for the next ten years (through 2019) of more than $525 billion.

With the new information from the CBO - and, unless and until we are presented with a factual defense of the GOP's claims - we are giving Schweikert and the GOP a Fact Checked grade of "F" for the false use of numbers. 

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

(Quickie) FACT CHECK: Arizona Rep. David Schweikert (One Of Many GOP'ers) Misleading Re: Healthcare Reform This Week

The Tweet from Arizona Rep. David Schweikert (R-CD5) caught my eye: "The cost of would buy you all 32 NFL Teams, 30 NBA Teams , 30 MLB Teams , and 30 NHL Teams almost 8 times."  Honestly, my first thought was how that action would affect whether the Phoenix Coyotes stay in town.  My second thought was that that figure needs to be fact checked.

First stop, the document Schweikert cites in the Tweet.  Not much help, just a brief Republican talking point from the Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  It indicates that the CBO's (the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office) latest estimates put the "cost of Obamacare has increased by $500 billion", for a total cost of $1.445 trillion.  Unfortunately, the GOP does not bother to cite where they received that from.

The next stop was to Rep. Schweikert's website, to see if we could glean more details.  The figure is there in his news release, along with the claims that last year's law includes "$670 billion in new taxes and counting", that it is "job-killing" and that his vote for repealing it "is a much better way."

Still no hint on where the $500 billion increase/$1.445 trillion total is gleaned from.  Next stop, the CBO's own website.  Nothing there on their "health" page - not since February 18, that is, when the CBO made it clear that they thought that the House Republicans' repeal would make our federal budget deficit WORSE by $251 billion between 2012-19!

Perhaps the Republicans are speaking of this CBO analysis of the President's 2012 budget submission, dated March 18, 2011.  However, after wading through the wonky document - particularly pages 14-15 and the table on page 22 - I could only find evidence that the CBO has concluded that changed estimates had a positive (downward) effect on the budget deficit over the next ten years.

Without being able to know what data Schweikert - and, the GOP in general - is relying upon, it is impossible to fully evaluate their claims.  However, what is certain is that they are leaving out the most important part of the data - the bottom line.  The CBO has scored the healthcare reform law as being positive for reducing the federal budget deficit (and the overall U.S. economy, for that matter), and has blasted the GOP's reform as increasing that deficit.

Misleading, at best.

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Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake Opens Campaign For Senate Trying To Erase Sharpie Support For Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Well, this should make tomorrow's Congressional delegation group press conference near the border more interesting.  Or, maybe it will be less interesting.  Rep. Jeff Flake (R-CD6) has given up on his support for comprehensive immigration reform because he believes it is "a dead end".

Tomorrow's press conference with fellow former-comprehensive-immigration-reform-supporter Sen. John McCain and Arizona's three freshman Republican Congresspeople (Paul Gosar, Ben Quayle, David Schweikert) is designed to wrap up their visit to the Arizona-Mexico border.  Where there might have been a diversity of opinions, there will now be unanimity (unless McCain picks that unlikely spot to return to his support for comprehensive reform).  Then again, reporters could choose to challenge Flake's Senate campaign conversion.

(Kudos to Republic reporter Dan Nowicki for also noting the "strikingly similar" language; outgoing Senator Jon Kyl used the same analogy to explain throwing his position into reverse.)

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Half of Arizona's Congressional Delegation Makes A Run For the Border Thursday; Sen. McCain Leads The Pack

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) leads half of Arizona's Congressional delegation to the Arizona-Mexico border this week. (March 23-24)  After their survey of the situation, the five will head back to Tucson for a press conference in the parking lot of the regional office of the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas agency (down by the Tucson airport).

Reps. Jeff Flake (R-CD6), and freshmen Paul Gosar (R-CD1), Ben Quayle (R-CD3) and David Schweikert (R-CD5) will join McCain on the survey and at the news conference.

UDPATE:  Not sure if they're going to the Douglas/Agua Prieta area, but came across this report this a.m.:

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Friday, March 18, 2011

WATCH: State Senator Rich Crandall On Voting Against Immigration Bills; Expects It To Come Back

Previous coverage of this issue: ;

Yesterday, 10 of the 21 Republicans in the Arizona Senate voted against several anti-illegal immigration bills that had been pushed forward by Tea Party Senate President Russell Pearce, Sen. Ron Gould and others.  With all of the (nine) Senate Democrats also opposing, the bills - including the measures to re-define the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to prevent babies born in the U.S. from automatically becoming citizens - went down.  Howard Fischer filed this report, including a list of each Senator's vote.

Channel 12's Scott Light interviewed Sen. Rich Crandall - one of the Republicans who defied Pearce, after a report that included Pearce decrying the lack of "political courage".  Crandall noted that the 10 Republicans had voted for S.B. 1070 last year.

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FACT CHECK FOLLOW-UP: As U.S. Presents, Today, Gov. Brewer's Anti-UN/Anti-White House/Pro-SB1070 Rant Proved False

It was 6 1/2 months ago that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer teed off on the Obama Administration for mentioning Arizona and the anti-illegal immigration SB1070 in its review of human rights in Arizona.  She decried the innocuous mention as "internationalism run amok and unconstitutional", and promised that Arizona would fight the attempt "to make an international human rights case out of SB1070". 

Today, the United States presents its response to the recommendations made by other countries, and will tell them that it flat out rejects the idea - made by Ecuador and echoed by others - that the U.S. should "Repeal and do not enforce discriminatory and racial laws such as Law SB 1070 of the State of Arizona."  And, that will basically be the end of that.  The report and the response will be approved, there will be no vote on whether the U.S. should be forced to repeal Arizona's law or sanctioned if it does not.  That is it.  An anti-climactic, yet completely predictable, end to something that the governor pretended was going to be an historic capitulation of the United States to the world.

The State Department released its response to the 228 recommendations made by other nations last week to little fanfare.  For most, the Administration expressed support, or rejected the rhetoric while supporting the principle.  However, the Ecuadoran recommendation was one of the 57 that the U.S. is flatly rejecting.  The comment: "(T)he Federal Executive Branch lacks the authority to repeal or refuse to enforce laws enacted at the State level."

The U.S. did respond favorably to other, more general recommendations touching on issues raised in the wake of SB1070.  For example, Guatemala, Bolivia, Mexico, Uruguay urged the U.S. to attempt to restrain state initiatives which encourage racial profiling and/or criminalizing people who cross the border without permission.  The U.S. response expressed support for the principle expressed in those recommendations in a very interesting way:

We will continue to both conduct human rights training and awareness campaigns and, where appropriate, bring civil or criminal actions regarding racial profiling, police brutality, and excessive use of force, and other actionable civil rights violations against immigrants. While unlawful presence in the U.S. is not a crime, and the federal government does not support state initiatives that aim to criminalize mere status, we cannot support the parts related to the “criminalization” of migrants, as certain immigration offenses are subject to criminal sanction, e.g., illegal entry. (emphasis added)

In August, we fact checked Gov. Brewer's letter and concluded that it was "completely misleading".  And, unless something completely unexpected occurs, today's proceedings will support that conclusion and prove to be a predictable anti-climax to the Governor's UN-and-Obama-bashing rant.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

WATCH: Sen. John McCain On Senate Floor Yesterday Re: Libya

Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) took to the Senate floor yesterday to pass a resolution urging President Obama to take stronger action to support  the opposition in Libya.  Here is that video:

McCain's prepared remarks called on Obama to implement the much-discussed no-fly zone, to recognize the Transitional National Council, and to provide intelligence and other support to the opponents of Libya's long-time leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

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Sen. John McCain: In Praise of Gen. Petraeus, In Frustration With President Obama

Arizona Sen. John McCain took a break from the Senate Armed Services Committee's hearing with Gen. David Petraeus to praise him on Phoenix talk radio this morning, calling him one of the greatest military leaders the U.S. has ever had.

In an interview on KFYI with host Barry Young, McCain (R-AZ) noted that the top U.S./NATO commander in the ongoing war in Afghanistan is "doing a great job".  McCain acknowledged that the next 2-4 months will be very important in determining whether the U.S.-led effort is ultimately deemed successful.

McCain had nothing but praise for the general, calling him "one of the great military leaders in the history of this country," and emphasizing that he is not just talking about recent history.

In other topics covered in the interview, McCain semi-agreed with the host about President Obama's handling of the situation in Libya, throwing in his perceptions from his recent trip to Egypt, Tunisia and other countries in that part of the world.  McCain noted that many Arabs perceive that "the influence of the United States is on the decline... and perception, as we know, is reality."

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio Pays $77,000 Fine For Illegal Campaign Mailer In County Attorney Race

(Update 7:40pm: Confirmed by Willems that the amount paid by Arpaio campaign is the $76,989.50 assessed by the ALJ.)

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's campaign announced late this afternoon that it has settled the illegal campaign contribution case against it by paying the assessed fine.  An administrative law judge last month found that a mailer sent by Arpaio's campaign committee was an illegal in-kind contribution to (successful) Maricopa County Attorney candidate Bill Montgomery rather than an expenditure to promote Arpaio's re-election in 2012.  The ALJ fined Arpaio $76,989.50 - the midpoint between a $1 fine and the maximum three times the expenditure.

The settlement comes two days before County Elections Director Karen Osborne was required to accept, modify or reject the ALJ's determination.  According to the press release sent out by Arpaio's campaign manager Chad Willems, the Sheriff's campaign committee continued to admit no wrong-doing.  The amount of the settlement is the full amount of the fine assessed by the ALJ, according to Willems.  The text of the release is included below the jump.

Arpaio's 2012 re-election campaign had acknowledged that it had spent more than $50,000 on the mailer that was the subject of the complaint by former County Attorney Rick Romley.  The administrative law judge rejected Arpaio's contentions that the mailer was constitutionally-protected speech.  Arpaio's committee also spent several hundred thousand dollars on television commercials which supported Montgomery and attacked Romley.