Sagan, 22, “Peddling Without a License”

The fall of 1956 temporarily separated Lynn and Carl. Sagan began work at the University of Chicago’s astronomy school in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. This is the home of the Yerkes Observatory. Completed in 1897, the forty-inch Yerkes refractor was housed in a brick-and-terra-cotta domed building. It was by then a storied relic.

Williams Bay had a population of barely 1,000. For city-bred Sagan, it presented a culture shock. For the first time in his life, Sagan encountered anti-Semitism. He also ran into trouble with the law. He attempted to raise funds for the Democratic Party, asking householders for a dollar each. As Sagan told it,

I spent all morning going door to door. And I got the most amazing responses: “The what party?” or “Shh! the master will hear!” or “Wait right here, young fellow, and I’ll get my shotgun.” Finally I was arrested by the sheriff, who had had innumerable complaints, on the grounds of peddling without a license. They figured I was peddling receipts at a dollar each. And I was remanded to the custody of the observatory director, who I don’t think understood anything about it, but just said to me, “Be a good boy.”

—From the bio Carl Sagan, 1999, by William Poundstone

“Everything’s gay, gay, gay now.”

More fun this evening chatting with Chandler voters.

The first person I talk to comes out guns blazing. I don’t even knock on his door. He just pops out with a “Hey there!”

“Hey, I’m Clif. I’m with the Democrats. I’m collecting signatures for some local candidates.”

“I used to be a Democrat,” he says, “back when they were conservative. Now they’re for the homosexuals and abortion, and they’re against God.”

I say, “Well, you know, I’m not a big fan of abortion, but I think the Democrats have it right. Number one, strangely enough, making more restrictive abortion laws doesn’t actually reduce the rate of abortion.* It’s like Barry Goldwater said: ‘It’s always been around, and it always will be.’* Things we know that help reduce the rate of abortion, though, like increased access to birth control and sex ed are things Democrats are generally for.”*

“Well, that’s true,” he says, “and that’s why I’m not strictly for one side or the other. But, I don’t know why everything has to be gay, gay, gay now. You can’t turn on the TV these days without homosexuals in everything. You know, I believe in the Bible, and the Bible makes it totally clear that homosexuality is wrong. Take Sodom and Gomorrah: God sends angels down to Lot, and the wicked men of the city try to have sex with them. Lot offers them his daughters — now that part’s terrible — but the men want the angels.”

I say, “Yeah, but I would point out that there are different ways to interpret these things. There are people out there who believe — I’m sure — just as strongly in God and the Bible who don’t think homosexuality is bad. In that verse you mentioned, for instance, they might say that God’s problem with the wicked men was not that they were homosexuals but that they wanted to rape strangers. Maybe God is just against people who want to rape other people.”*

He says, “Yeah, there are a lot of people out there who want to distort the truth. They try to call people like me an extremist just because I’ve been married to my wife for 52 years.”

I say, “Well, I wouldn’t call you that. I would just say that I have gay friends myself who I care for a lot. They’re people who I think suffered because they grew up around people who told them that they were bad. They couldn’t change this ‘bad’ thing about themselves, so it made them deeply unhappy. I think that’s terrible.”

He then tells me a bizarre story about a handsome nephew who he says was turned gay by his mom and sisters who would dress him up like a girl, in dresses and makeup. I let that one go. I liked that the guy called his nephew “a real head-turner,” though.

This was like a 20-minute conversation that I won’t recount all of here. It turns out that the guy doesn’t like Jeff Flake because Flake’s nephew apparently … neglected some dogs? The guy doesn’t like McCain because McCain is responsible for the shoddy condition of the VA apparently.

He talks about how you can’t have the Bible in schools anymore, but you can have the “yin yang.” I kinda regret not finding out what the “yin yang” is ….

Trump, though. There’s somethin’ about that Trump guy. He says, “Trump’s a guy who can’t be bought ’cause he’s already a billionaire.”

As I almost always do when I hear Trump’s name, I begin to vomit uncontrollably. No, I’m kidding. I just vomit in my mind. The mind vomit helps to cloud the mental image of Trump.

This ex-Democrat then says, “And the Mueller investigation — the Democrats are just dragging it out. It’s just a waste of taxpayer money.”

I start to say, “Well, the Republicans spent a lot of taxpayer money to investigate Hillary….”

He jumps in: “Well, it’s been good talking to you.”

Then, he kinda cocks an eye and says, “Good night and … God bless.”

“Thanks for talking to me!” I say. “Have a good one!”

One convert at a time.

WikiLeaks Tweets November 1-8, 2016

In 2016, like a lot of people using social media, I found myself constantly alarmed at the various accusations being leveled at Hillary Clinton and Democrats generally. A lot of these accusations, I found, originated with the Russian hack of the DNC.* As is now widely known (though less so among Republicans in the US*), Russian hackers stole information from both the Democrats and Republicans but only chose to disseminate information potentially harmful to Democrats.*

The claim of dishonesty is important because it suggests that WikiLeaks is itself opaque and, therefore, hypocritical.

One might argue that WikiLeaks founder (and former host of Russia Today’s World Tomorrow) Julian Assange is in favor of transparency generally and that the source of information that increases transparency is unimportant.* I find that explanation plausible. However, what I think may have received too little attention during the 2016 election is how partisan WikiLeaks was and how dishonest their dissemination of information was. The claim of dishonesty is important because it suggests that WikiLeaks is itself opaque and, therefore, hypocritical.

What you find is that, of those 153 tweets, 130 (85%) of them were critical of Clinton and Democrats generally. Of those same 153 tweets, there is not a single one critical of Trump nor of any Republican.

To support my claim of partisanship, I provide below a collection of all 153 tweets by WikiLeaks from November 1st through election day, November 8th, 2016.* What you find is that, of those 153 tweets, 130 (85%) of them were critical of Clinton and Democrats generally. Of those same 153 tweets, there is not a single one critical of Trump nor of any Republican. I categorized 15 of the tweets as neutral. One of those was a retweet of CNN’s Jake Tapper where the reporter wrote, “been hearing for weeks anecdotally about the CIA-FBI divide over this election.” Tapper clarified in a brief, tweeted conversation that he meant, “as a very crude generalization,” he was hearing about the CIA being anti-Trump and FBI being anti-Clinton.* I don’t know what prompted WikiLeaks to share this, so I categorized it as “neutral.”

To support my claim of dishonesty, I will highlight the habit the WikiLeaks tweeters had of misrepresenting the content of articles and emails.

To support my claim of dishonesty, I will highlight the habit the WikiLeaks tweeters had of misrepresenting the content of articles and emails. For example, on November 4th, WikiLeaks tweeted, “MIT prof: What I learned from visualizing Clinton’s emails – Summary: study censored & I was mobbed by Clintonists.”* The problem with this “summary” by WikiLeaks is that the professor never claims to have been mobbed.* He does claim that a Reddit thread about the analysis was taken down by a moderator, but there is no evidence that a “Clintonist” did this. In fact, the analyst himself notes that he was a Clinton supporter who viewed Trump as “potentially a threat to global security.” How did he summarize his own work? Read for yourself:

What I saw on Clinton’s emails was not surprising to me. It involved a relatively small group of people talking about what language to use when communicating with other people. […] I am sure that if we had access to Trump’s emails we would see plenty of the same behavior.

Another case involves a possibly strained relationship between Al Gore and Hillary Clinton. In the email exchange, Nora Toiv shares a November 2015 story published by People titled “Al Gore Declines to Endorse Hillary Clinton for President.” In fact, Gore says that he is not endorsing anyone at that point because it’s too early to decide.* Huma Abedin tells those present in the email thread that Gore warned the campaign that he would not endorse Hillary Clinton: “hard to put on email but there is no love lost in this relationship. reminder that he also refused to endorse in 2008!!!” This obviously indicates a strained relationship of some kind but gives no indication of ill will on either’s part. So, how did it turn out? Gore endorsed Clinton in July 2016, months before WikiLeaks tweeted the email.* Here’s how WikiLeaks presented the email exchange: “Hillary and Gore hate each other. The reason is too dangerous to put in email — Clinton’s closest aid Huma Abedin.”

Call me crazy, but that seems not at all transparent to me.

With this background, I present all 153 tweets with notes and context where I could find them:

11/8/2016
“Clinton: out of touch, cronyistic, didn’t drive a car in 35 years, flew all over the world but accomplished nothing”
link
source WikiLeaks

11/8/2016
“By biasing its internal electoral market the DNC selected the less competitive candidate defeating the purpose of running a primary.”
link
source WikiLeaks

11/8/2016
Video compilation of WikiLeaks top stories, including feature regarding criticism of DNC
link
source WikiLeaks

11/8/2016
Graphic showing election forecast favoring Trump
link
source New York Times

11/8/2016
“The American people don’t like corruption. After the election comes selection. Who will be selected and why?”
link
[Note: Article by David Dayen, who has also contributed to Salon, The Intercept, and Fiscal Times.] source New Republic

11/8/2016
“Hillary Clinton is privately against gay marriage”
link
[Note: Regated is not currently active. It appears to have been founded by Victor Smith and Sam Wenkert. One of the writers for the publication calls himself Robert Powell and wrote on his Gab page on 3/12/18, “These countries are shitholes BECAUSE THEY ARE NO LONGER MAJORITY WHITE.” Other writers: Orlando Navarro, MD Anderson, Julian Wan.] source Regated

Continue reading WikiLeaks Tweets November 1-8, 2016

The Door

A representative from the The Door (Christian Center) came to my apartment earlier. I usually don’t answer My Door for people who aren’t delivering packages to me, but she was very insistent. She knocked and clacked the clapper several times as if to say, “You must answer — your very soul is at stake!”

I answered the door, and she handed me this bookmark-sized ad for something called XTREME VENUE. I’d never have guessed that it was for a church group if she hadn’t told me.

She asks if I’m religious. I tell her that I consider myself a humanist now, though I did grow up with a Pentecostalist mom and went to a Seventh-Day Adventist church school for several years.

She tells me how much Jesus still loves me and how Jesus saved her, made her whole, and made her a better person.

Eventually, I ask her what I ask the LDS missionaries that I periodically speak to when they come to my door: “If you passed by someone on the street who is hungry, would you try to help them?”

“Yes, of course,” she says. Everybody says this.

I say, “We both know that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present. So, we know that God could help that person but doesn’t. So, why worship something that is less moral than you are?”

“But God gives us free will, so it’s our own decisions that get us to that point of being hungry,” she says.

I say, “Well, I think we have some free will but not much. After our genetic makeup and environment are accounted for, that doesn’t leave much room for our personal choices. Our lives are highly determined by the circumstances we’re born into. We can predict, with high certainty, how a person’s life will play out just by where they were born geographically and their parents’ circumstances. I believe, like most humanists, that, by focusing on making the afterlife better for everyone, we too often fail to do as much as we can to help people now who will suffer and die if they only receive spiritual nourishment.”

She says, “I believe that we do need to help those people, and it is my personal choice to help those people. At the same time, though, if you die, you will never have filled that hole that only Christ can fill. That’s why I urge you to read the Bible.”

“What do you think about abortion?” I blurt out.

“Well, I oppose it,” she says.

I say, “Where in the Bible does it mention abortion?”

“God said, ‘Before you were formed, I knew you,'” she says.

I say, “That is Jeremiah talking about a vision he had of God. Jeremiah says that God told him in this vision that Jeremiah would be a prophet to the nations. In Exodus, there’s a verse that says, ‘If two men are fighting and one of them bumps into a pregnant woman, causing her to miscarry, the man who bumped into her has to pay a fine determined by her husband and some judges. But, if the woman dies along with her fetus, the man who bumped into her must be killed, life for life.’ To me, that means that God thinks differently of the born and unborn.”

“What do you think about abortion?” she says.

I say, “Well, I don’t think it should be illegal. I think of myself as scientifically-minded, so I always try to look at the evidence. We know that making it illegal doesn’t actually reduce the rate of abortion; it just makes it more dangerous for the mother. While I don’t think we can stop abortion completely, I would prefer to reduce the rate of abortion overall. The best way the research says to do that is to make birth control as available as we can.”

She says, “We can talk all day about different theories. Scientists have a lot of theories, but they’re not proven. You know, Darwin had his theory of evolution and, even though it’s not proven because it’s just a theory, they still teach it in schools like it’s a fact.”

I say, “Well, that’s an issue with how non-scientists casually use the word ‘theory’ and how scientists use the word. When scientists use the word, it means that there’s a huge amount of evidence in favor of it. It’s as close to truth as we can get. Evolution is ‘just a theory’ in the same way that gravity is ‘just a theory.'”

She says, “It’s fun to talk about the scientific, but I think you still have to think about the spiritual. That is so important to me. My spirituality is informed by reading the Bible and praying. Just reading the Bible and thinking about all these things that people say about it isn’t enough. That’s why you need to pray while reading the Bible.”

I say, “Yeah, but there’s something I can’t get over about prayer: How do I know who’s answering?”

“Well, it’s Jesus. You would be praying to Jesus,” she says.

“Yeah, but how do you know that it’s Jesus answering? I mean, if you connect to wifi, hackers can intercept that signal and reroute you to what they want you to see.”

“Oh, I know it’s Jesus.”

“OK, but let’s say that it’s Satan that intercepts that prayer. And, Satan wants you to think that it’s OK to bomb an abortion clinic, because Satan wants you to believe that people who provide abortions are baby murderers.”

“But, I know that it’s not Satan. I absolutely know that it’s Jesus answering,” she says.

“You are certain that something is answering,” I say. “We both know that Satan is deceptive, though. Satan could disguise itself as Jesus to make us do its bidding. That’s exactly the type of thing we’d expect Satan to do.”

She says that you can protect yourself from that by saying, “My blood is pure, Satan!” or something like that.

By that time, either because we’d been talking awhile and her fellow proselytizers had moved on, or because she had increasingly become convinced that I’m the Devil, she had backed out of the fenced area outside my entryway and closed the gate.

“Read the Bible and pray!” she said, looking back while walking away.

“I’m afraid to pray! Don’t want to let in the Devil!” I said. “Have a nice day!”

Then I closed The Door.


The Door’s Pastor Joe Campbell “Healing”

Guns in the Academic Literature

October 2014

“In conclusion, this article is the first to our knowledge to report that a higher proportion of household gun ownership at the state level is associated with statistically significant increased rates of nonstranger total and firearm homicides. By contrast, we found no robust, statistically significant association between household gun ownership and stranger homicides. Our findings thus challenge the argument that gun ownership deters violent crime, in particular, homicides.”

American Journal of Public Health, 104(10), 1912–9*


December 2002

“Across the nine regions for the early 1990s (n = 9), household handgun ownership rates are positively correlated with the suicide rate (r = 0.59) and are not correlated with either the lifetime prevalence of major depression or suicidal thoughts. After controlling for major depression and suicidal thoughts (and any of the four additional control variables), handgun ownership rates remain significantly associated with the overall suicide rate.”

Injury Prevention, 8, 313–316*


July 2004

“Individual-level studies (n=4) are reviewed that investigate the risks and benefits of owning a personal or household firearm. The research suggests that households with firearms are at higher risk for homicide, and there is no net beneficial effect of firearm ownership.

“Two groups of ecological studies are reviewed, those comparing multiple countries and those focused solely on the United States. Results from the cross-sectional international studies (n=7) typically show that in high-income countries with more firearms, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.

“Time series (n=10) and cross-sectional studies (n=9) of U.S. cities, states, and regions and for the United States as a whole, generally find a statistically significant gun prevalence–homicide association. None of the studies prove causation, but the available evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that increased gun prevalence increases the homicide rate.”

Aggression and Violent Behavior, 9(4), 417–440*


November 2013

•There is no evidence for the ‘more guns less crime’ position.

•Guns facilitate suicides or homicides and increase the risk of violent death.

•It is the lethality of the weapon that is responsible.

•The idea that guns serve a protective function is an illusion.

Aggression and Violent Behavior, 18(6), 709–721*


March 2002

“Between 1988 and 1997, the suicide, homicide, and unintentional firearm death rates among women were disproportionately higher in states where guns were more prevalent. The elevated rates of violent death in states with more guns was not entirely explained by a state’s poverty or urbanization and was driven primarily by lethal firearm violence, not by lethal nonfirearm violence.”

Journal of Urban Health, 79(1), 26–38*


December 2000

“Among developed nations, the United States has the highest rate of civilian gun ownership, and the highest homicide rate. We examine whether the United States is merely an exception, or if a relationship between gun availability and homicide exists across all developed nations.

“In simple regressions (no control variables) across 26 high-income nations, there is a strong and statistically significant association between gun availability and homicide rates.

“Conclusion: Across developed countries, where guns are more available, there are more homicides.”

Journal of Trauma-Injury Infection & Critical Care 49(6), 985–988*


May 1993

“Positive correlations were obtained between the rates of household gun ownership and the national rates of homicide and suicide as well as the proportions of homicides and suicides committed with a gun.”

Canadian Medical Association Journal, 148(10), 1721–1725*


June 2006

“Over the 22 year study period household firearm ownership rates declined across all four regions. In multivariate analyses, each 10% decline in household firearm ownership was associated with significant declines in rates of firearm suicide, 4.2% (95% CI 2.3% to 6.1%) and overall suicide, 2.5% (95% CI 1.4% to 3.6%). Changes in non-firearm suicide were not associated with changes in firearm ownership.

“The magnitude of the association between changes in household firearm ownership and changes in rates of firearm and overall suicide was greatest for children: for each 10% decline in the percentage of households with firearms and children, the rate of firearm suicide among children 0–19 years of age dropped 8.3% (95% CI 6.1% to 10.5%) and the rate of overall suicide dropped 4.1% (2.3% to 5.9%).”

Injury Prevention, 12, 178–182.*


January 2011

“The US homicide rates were 6.9 times higher than rates in the other high-income countries, driven by firearm homicide rates that were 19.5 times higher. For 15-year olds to 24-year olds, firearm homicide rates in the United States were 42.7 times higher than in the other countries. For US males, firearm homicide rates were 22.0 times higher, and for US females, firearm homicide rates were 11.4 times higher. The US firearm suicide rates were 5.8 times higher than in the other countries, though overall suicide rates were 30% lower. The US unintentional firearm deaths were 5.2 times higher than in the other countries.

“Among these 23 countries, 80% of all firearm deaths occurred in the United States, 86% of women killed by firearms were US women, and 87% of all children aged 0 to 14 killed by firearms were US children.”

Journal of Trauma-Injury Infection & Critical Care, 70(1), 238–243*


April 2007

“Household firearm ownership levels are strongly associated with higher rates of suicide, consistent with the hypothesis that the availability of lethal means increases the rate of completed suicide.”

Journal of Trauma-Injury Infection & Critical Care, 62(4), 1029–1035*


October 2013

“The number of guns per capita per country was a strong and independent predictor of firearm-related death in a given country, whereas the predictive power of the mental illness burden was of borderline significance in a multivariable model. Regardless of exact cause and effect, however, the current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis that guns make a nation safer.”

The American Journal of Medicine, 126(10), 873–876*


February 2002

“A statistically significant association exists between gun availability and the rates of unintentional firearm deaths, homicides, and suicides. The elevated rates of suicide and homicide among children living in states with more guns is not entirely explained by a state’s poverty, education, or urbanization and is driven by lethal firearm violence, not by lethal nonfirearm violence.”

Journal of Trauma-Injury Infection & Critical Care, 52(2), 267–275*


November 2004

“Those persons with guns in the home were at greater risk than those without guns in the home of dying from a homicide in the home (adjusted odds ratio = 1.9, 95% confidence interval: 1.1, 3.4). They were also at greater risk of dying from a firearm homicide, but risk varied by age and whether the person was living with others at the time of death.

“The risk of dying from a suicide in the home was greater for males in homes with guns than for males without guns in the home (adjusted odds ratio = 10.4, 95% confidence interval: 5.8, 18.9). Persons with guns in the home were also more likely to have died from suicide committed with a firearm than from one committed by using a different method (adjusted odds ratio = 31.1, 95% confidence interval: 19.5, 49.6).

“Results show that regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home, having a gun in the home was associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide in the home.”

American Journal of Epidemiology, 160(10), 929–936*


Spring 2002

“Among high-income countries, where firearms are more available, more women are homicide victims. Women in the United States are at higher risk of homicide victimization than are women in any other high-income country.”

Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association, 57(2), 100–104.*


October 2001

“This paper uses a unique data set to demonstrate that increases in gun ownership lead to substantial increases in the overall homicide rate.”

Journal of Political Economy, 109(5), 1086–1114*


October 1993

“As compared with the controls, the victims more often lived alone or rented their residence. Also, case households more commonly contained an illicit-drug user, a person with prior arrests, or someone who had been hit or hurt in a fight in the home. After controlling for these characteristics, we found that keeping a gun in the home was strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of homicide.”

The New England Journal of Medicine, 329, 1084–1091*


August 2004

“Although the current study cannot determine causation, firearm mortality in its various forms is most commonly related to the prevalence of firearms and the percent of the population that is African American.”

Journal of Community Health, 29(4), 271–283*


“We observed a robust correlation between higher levels of gun ownership and higher firearm homicide rates. Although we could not determine causation, we found that states with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides.”

American Journal of Public Health, 103(11), 2098–2105*

Latinos and Education in Arizona

Like the rest of the US, Arizona has a serious problem regarding educational attainment gaps between white and Latino students. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, whites in 2015 were 46% proficient in reading by grade 4 and 44% proficient at grade 8; Latinos were 21% proficient at both grade levels with similar disparities present in math.* As with the US generally, Latinos are not the only non-white group to fare poorly in school in Arizona. However, as they comprise 31% of the population, Arizona has one of the country’s largest Latino populations.* Many Latinos have an educational experience different from their non-Latino counterparts in that most (73%) speak a language other than English at home.* Does this explain why Latinos experience worse educational outcomes than whites? Can we do anything to close or narrow these outcome gaps?


Expansion of the United States, Ward et al, 1912

Background on Latinos in the US and Arizona

Arizona’s current proportion of Latinos is relatively high depending on when in the state’s history the comparison is made. In 1930, for example, the state’s Latino population was also roughly 30%. It would fall to closer to 20% from around the 1950s to the 1990s when it began to rise again. However, in 1870, the proportion of Arizonans who were Latino was 60.9%. This high proportion of Latinos stemmed, in part, from the fact that, up to about 1850, most of the Southwest was controlled by the Spanish or by Mexico.*


Hispanic Share of Population by State, 1870-2012, Krogstad and Lopez, 2014*

The US granted citizenship to all Mexicans living in territories acquired from Mexico.* By 1900, there were about 500,000 Mexicans living in the US due to labor needs in building the railroad system. Changing economic needs, labor needs, and immigration policies like Operation Wetback influenced the ebb and flow of immigrants across the southern border up to the 1960s. Immigration legislation passed in 1965 led to a surge in Latino immigrants across the country.

Why Arizonans Should Care About Latino Education

People in the US generally might wonder why anyone should care about whether Latinos do well in school. One reason they might care is that most people in the US believe that all people are created equal. In 2015, when asked if they thought that Thomas Jefferson’s assertion that “all men are created equal” is true, 76% of US respondents said that it is.* If people generally begin life on the same footing, it stands to reason that it is largely external forces that prevent them from achieving their full potential. People in the US also generally believe, one, that races are not currently equal and, two, that they should be. A majority of people in the US, 61%, feels that changes are needed to achieve racial equality.*

Arizona also faces the possibility of not being able to meet the needs of the changing job market by not being able to properly educate its large Latino population. According to a report by Georgetown University, by 2020, 68% of jobs in Arizona will require postsecondary education.* Consumer spending is a significant driver of economic growth generally.* In the US, consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the economy.* However, there must also be job growth in order for consumers to have the income to actually spend. If a third of Arizona’s citizens are not well-educated enough to do or qualify to do the jobs that will be available in the near future, they will not generate the income necessary to keep consumer spending up. This will be detrimental to the economic well-being of all Arizonans.

Why Arizona Latinos Are Not Performing as Well as Whites

There are several problems that English Language Learners (ELLs) face that their English-speaking peers do not. One obvious challenge is that they must acquire proficiency close to their peers while they are simultaneously expected to learn the same material, taught in English, as their peers. Given that a proportion of a given group of English-speaking students will struggle with course materials in their native language, the challenge for ELL students is even greater. ELLs do especially poorly in Arizona. According to Department of Education data, Arizona’s rate of graduating ELLs (18% compared to 75.7% for the general population) is the worst in the country.* By contrast, California, which has a similar composition of ELL students, graduated 65% during the same period.*


English Language Learners Versus Total Graduation Rate, Sanchez, 2017

Another major influencer of student success is parental education. More than 65% of Latino adults in Arizona have no educational experience outside of high school.* In a longitudinal study by Dubow, Boxer, and Huesmann, published in 2009, the researchers followed 856 third-graders over a 40-year timespan. They found that their parents’ educational attainment level significantly predicted their child’s educational and occupational success at age 48. The researchers note that lower educational attainment in adults is associated with a host of negative child development outcomes stemming from such phenomena as greater parental stress.*

One other major influencer is poverty rate. Data from the US Census Bureau show a strong correlation between poverty and educational outcomes in the US.* According to those data, 28.9% of people aged 25 and older in 2014 without a high school diploma were living in poverty. This poverty rate is reduced by half (to 14.2%) for those with a high school diploma but with no college.* Given the strong association between poverty and lack of education, it is not surprising that both would impact Spanish-speaking immigrants the hardest. As a group, they are already more likely to be poor as a disproportionate number are more recent immigrants, and such immigrants typically do not leave their home country if they are already financially well-off.


US Census Bureau, 2014

Possible Solutions

In a 2012 report by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development of Victoria and the University of Melbourne, researchers noted the strong impact of reading to children on improving educational outcomes. They found that reading to kids 4–5 years old 3–5 days per week has the same effect on the child’s reading skills as being 6 months older. They also found that increasing the number of readings to 6–7 days per week had the same effect as the child being nearly 12 months older.* This may present a special challenge for parents who speak Spanish only as, one, they may be disinclined to read to their kids in Spanish for fear of worsening their English attainment, and, two, they may be right to fear doing so. One way to overcome this might be to expose children to reading while they are at school or to make children’s books in audio form more widely available to them.

Milem, Salazar, and Bryan reported in 2016 on findings by the Arizona Minority Education Policy Analysis Center suggesting strategies for improving educational outcomes for English Language Learners in Arizona generally. One recommendation they give is to examine entrance requirements that grant or deny access to ELL services.* The nonpartisan Arizona education analysis organization Center for Student Achievement wrote in 2016 that the precipitous drop in Arizona students being classified as ELL is probably due to too-generous proficiency tests more than to actual proficiency. However, it is difficult to know for sure as data on students reclassified as fluent in English are not readily available.*

In 2000, Arizona’s Proposition 203 was passed, requiring a statewide abolition of bilingual education in favor of Structured English Immersion (SEI).* The proposition stipulates that students are expected to learn English within 1 year.* Prior to implementation, opponents argued that this was, one, an unrealistically short amount of time, and, two, would result in years of cumulatively incomprehensible classroom education.* A 2000 study by Hakuta, Butler, and Witt supports that contention. They found that the time to achieve oral English proficiency is roughly 3–5 years while academic proficiency takes 4–7 years.* These writers suggested that, within the time available during formal school hours, it might be impossible for ELL students to keep up with their peers. They suggest that summer and after-school programs might be needed.*

The Near Future

The evidence is overwhelming that educational attainment among Arizona’s Latinos is a serious issue that will have far-reaching impacts on the state’s economy and on people of all racial and national origins. Although Arizona’s Latinos experience high rates of poverty and, to a much larger degree, have the extra barrier of language, there are, nevertheless, ways that the gap can be closed. However, as this process will take years to show progress, and time has already been lost by not taking the issue seriously enough, Arizona’s leadership will have to work diligently to help its inhabitants prosper in the coming years and decades.

2014 State Per Capita CO2 Emissions vs Party Lean

Do people in red-leaning or blue-leaning states have a bigger carbon footprint?

Just looking at data from the Energy Information Administration from 2014, it looks like red states do produce more CO2 per capita:

 

I wanted to better quantify this, though, so I ran the data through a Pearson correlation calculator.* Here’s the dataset in case you’d like to check my work:

And, here are the results:

As you can see, mathematically, as the proportion of a state that was Republican or leaned Republican in 2014 went up, so did the state’s per capita CO2 emissions. The value of R is 0.549, a moderate positive correlation. R2: 0.3014.


For the sake of thoroughness, I performed the same calculation for the Democrats. Here’s that dataset:

Here’s the resultant graph:

The value of R is -0.5593, a moderate negative correlation. R2: 0.3128.

2016 State Per Capita GDP vs Democratic Lean

How well do states perform economically that have populations leaning Democrat or Republican? To try to answer this question, I took data from Gallup for 2016* to determine political leaning and compared it to data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis for state per capita GPD* using a Pearson correlation calculation.*


State Per Capita GDP vs Percent of States Identifying as Democrat or Lean Democrat

From the resulting graph, one might expect a slight positive correlation, and one would be right. The value of R is 0.462. Although technically a positive correlation, the relationship between the variables is weak. The value of R2, the coefficient of determination, is 0.2134.

* * *

For the sake of thoroughness, we can perform the same test for percentage of states that lean Republican:


State Per Capita GDP vs Percent of States Identifying as Rep or Lean Rep

From the resulting graph, one might expect a slight negative correlation, and this is what we find. The value of R is -0.4692. Although technically a negative correlation, the relationship between the variables is weak. The value of R2, the coefficient of determination, is 0.2201.

* * *

What, if anything does this prove? Primarily, it doesn’t appear that either Republicans or Democrats can strongly boast of improving the economy if that metric is based on per capita income. However, if one side did want to make the claim to being better for the economy, the analysis appears to support the Democrats. These results are similar to those I found in another Pearson correlation I performed using Gallup data in comparison to unemployment figures.

The War on Initiatives in Arizona

On April 14th, 2017, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2244 into law. The bill primarily calls for the following:  “Constitutional and statutory requirements for statewide initiative measures must be strictly construed and persons using the initiative process must strictly comply with those constitutional and statutory requirements.”*

The bill as introduced by House Representative Eddie Farnsworth (R-12) pertained to concealed weapons permits and “electronic reports.” That bill’s text was stricken in the Senate Appropriations Committee, where all six Republicans voted in favor and all four Democrats voted against the measure to replace the bill’s language and intent.*

View Senate Appropriations Committee Votes
 


The bill passed the Senate with all Democrats opposing and all but one Republican voting in favor:*

Breakdown of Senate votes on HB 2244
Party Affiliation Yes No Abstain Total
Democrat 0 13 0 13
Republican 16 1 0 17
Total 16 14 0 30
View Senate Votes
 


In the House, the bill also passed exclusively with Republican votes:*

Breakdown of House votes on HB 2244
Party Affiliation Yes No NV/E Total
Democrat 0 23 2 26
Republican 34 0 1 34
Total 34 23 3 60
View House Votes
 


Legislators in favor of the bill note, in the text of the bill, that initiatives give “extraordinary power” to voters. They write that courts have required strict compliance when a legislative tool is considered an extraordinary power. In order to amend any voter-approved initiative, Arizona’s Voter Protection Act requires three-fourths of the state House and Senate to vote for the amendment. This stipulation inhibits the legislature from changing or correcting voter-approved measures. Thus, according to the authors of the bill, the initiative has become an extraordinary power, requiring that it be held to a standard of strict compliance to constitutional and statutory requirements.*

The measure could result in individual signatures or entire pages of signatures on petitions being thrown out due to minor instances of noncompliance. If a page has more than the maximum of 15 signatures, it could be thrown out. If an address is deemed to be illegible, the signature could be thrown out. If a petition sheet does not conform to size requirements, the entire page could be thrown out. A signature might also be stricken if the signer uses a shortened version of a name such as “Jim” for “James.”* Such rules were in place prior to the passage of this bill where 20 different discrepancies could result in a page of signatures or individual signatures from being counted. However, before HB2244, only “substantial compliance” was deemed necessary, allowing officials leeway in determining whether a minor example of noncompliance was serious enough to warrant rejection.*


Other Battles in the War

In addition to the strict compliance bill, Republicans authored House Bill 2023, signed into law by Governor Ducey on March 9th, 2016, which makes it a felony to collect and turn in ballots unless one is an election official, family member of the signer, or a mail carrier. Although presented as a way to protect the integrity of elections, no Republican has furnished evidence of a single instance in which someone has tampered with ballots. On the other hand, this law makes it impossible for organizations behind various initiatives to pay groups to collect ballots once initiatives have received a sufficient number of signatures to get them on the ballot.*

On March 23rd of this year, Governor Ducey signed House Bill 2404 into law, which outlaws pay-per-signature gathering of signatures on citizen initiatives. The bill also requires that signature collectors be paid minimum wage and raises the total days election officials have to verify signatures. Critics charge that, because of the law, signature collectors will have less incentive to collect as many signatures as possible. Legislator Doug Coleman, who voted in favor of the bill, responded that petition gatherers can simply use volunteers. However, an analysis of initiatives that went to ballot over four election cycles found that none made it using only volunteers.* As with HB2244 and HB2023, HB2404 was authored by and voted for exclusively by Republicans. As with HB2023, sponsors and passers cited concerns of protecting voters from fraud, though they again furnished no evidence that such fraud had occurred.* In fact, available evidence suggests that how signature-gatherers are paid has no relationship to prevalence of fraud.*


Initiatives in US and Arizona History

Stakeholders in the policy surrounding initiatives include voters (who will suffer or enjoy the results), legislators (who may face political repercussions from implemented laws), signature-gathering organizations, initiative organizers, businesses, and election officials (who ultimately must implement initiative laws).

Detractors of the concept of initiatives argue that the “public legislature” allowed for by the initiative process contrasts with the Framers’ view of an elected republic that would “refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens.”* Those more in favor of direct democracy might cite Jefferson who wrote that “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories.”*

Arizona, like 24 other states, allows voters to propose initiatives, a law established in the state constitution at the state’s founding. Initiatives are laws or constitutional amendments proposed and voted on by voters which allow those voters to change the state government beyond and, in some cases, in opposition to what state legislators do. To get an initiative on an official ballot, a number of voters equal to 10% of the total number of voters who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election must sign a petition in favor of a particular proposal. Initiatives must be filed by the secretary of state no fewer than 4 months prior to the date of the election. Between 1970 and 2013, various entities attempted 425 petitions. Of those, 16% made it to the ballot. Of those, under half were approved by Arizona voters. This means, ultimately, that only 8% of petitions attempted became law over that period.*

Ballot initiatives have been controversial from the start. The first attempt to curtail initiatives came in 1916 after initiatives had passed granting women’s suffrage and instituting alcohol prohibition. This early attempt failed. The Voter Protection Act mentioned in the text of HB2244 was the result of a failed 1996 initiative to legalize marijuana. The initiative passed, but lawmakers gutted it the following year. In response, a 1998 initiative created the Voter Protection Act which requires 3/4 vote by state legislators in both chambers to repeal an initiative-created law and then only to “further the purpose” of the law. A criticism of the Voter Protection Act is that it caused a downgrade in the state’s credit rating. However, the state’s treasurer shows a current rating of “Very strong” from Standard & Poor’s, which is just below its best rating and very close to its rating over the past 10 years.*


The Future of Initiatives

Between 1970 and 2013, 67 of 425 initiatives made it to the ballot, less than half of those 67 becoming law. Because it currently takes more than 200,000 signatures to get an initiative onto the ballot,* it is already extremely difficult for citizens who do not feel adequately represented to defy the plans of the state’s dominant political faction.

In order to give a stronger voice to voters via the initiative process, electronic initiatives could be employed. An electronic voting system has already been successfully employed in the state since 2012 that allows state candidates to gather half of the signatures required for their nominations. A similar system could be employed for initiatives.* For now, though, unilateral efforts by members of a single party in the state, ostensibly created to protect the integrity of the initiative process and ballot-gathering, are instead more likely to reduce the ability of citizens who feel unrepresented to have a voice.

Jefferson on Public Education

From Notes on the State of Virginia, February 27, 1787*

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories.

But of all the views of this law none is more important, none more legitimate, than that of rendering the people the safe, as they are the ultimate, guardians of their own liberty. For this purpose the reading in the first stage, where they will receive their whole education, is proposed, as has been said, to be chiefly historical. History by apprising them of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views.

In every government on earth is some trace of human weakness, some germ of corruption and degeneracy, which cunning will discover, and wickedness insensibly open, cultivate, and improve. Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe their minds must be improved to a certain degree. This indeed is not all that is necessary, though it be essentially necessary.

An amendment of our constitution must here come in aid of the public education. The influence over government must be shared among all the people. If every individual which composes their mass participates of the ultimate authority, the government will be safe; because the corrupting the whole mass will exceed any private resources of wealth: and public ones cannot be provided but by levies on the people. In this case every man would have to pay his own price.

The government of Great-Britain has been corrupted, because but one man in ten has a right to vote for members of parliament. The sellers of the government therefore get nine-tenths of their price clear. It has been thought that corruption is restrained by confining the right of suffrage to a few of the wealthier of the people: but it would be more effectually restrained by an extension of that right to such numbers as would bid defiance to the means of corruption.

If every individual which composes their mass participates of the ultimate authority, the government will be safe; because the corrupting the whole mass will exceed any private resources of wealth….