Think Tank 2014

Santa Claus’ Tax Policy with Jerry Lewis Superintendant of the Children First Academy, Jerry Lewis. He joins the show to talk about his two schools which serve mostly homeless and higher needs kids. Podcast here.
Ferguson, NYC, and Phoenix: Police Shootings1. Monica Lindstrom is an attorney who has a show that follows ours.2. The narratives on both sides are always the same.3. The public react to these two narratives in a fairly predictable fashion?4.  Some people have proposed weeding out a few “Bad Apples” is the fix. You think it is the WORST POSSIBLE WAY TO VIEW THIS PROBLEM.  Why? Podcast here.Great Arizona Books—with 3 Great Arizona Authors Jan Boomersbach (of Winnie Ruth Judd fame) has written a new historical novel set in the late 19th Century West. Jack August has written more books than I can count about   significant historical figures from Arizona’s recent history. And John Westerlund has written about the transformation of Flagstaff with in development of a huge but now almost completely forgotten ordinance depot that employed thousands of workers during World War II. Join us for an interesting and free-wheeling discussion of Arizona’s fascinating and sometimes tawdry recent history. Learn how we came to be what we are. Podcast here.

Think Tank Political Potpourri: Four segments with Paula Pennypacker

  1. Why did the Democrats get clobbered in this year’s midterm elections?
  2. Uber Obamacare? Uber is the darling of Republican free enterprise types (anti-regulation disruptive technology).  Their CEO said Obamacare was instrumental to the company’s success.  What? Why?  How?
  3. Conservative and Liberal brains are different.  Scientific research and MRI’s show that these groups’ brains actually respond differently.
  4. And what are the implications of all of these things for the future of our politics. Podcast Here.

VA Scandal: Whistleblower Paula Pedene and Labor Attorney Tom Rogers: Hear the inside story of the ongoing VA scandal from one of the chief whistleblowers who was responsible for bringing the story to public attention. Paula Pedene will discuss the sequence of events, the local VA administration’s response to the allegations, and the reprisals taken against the whistleblowers.  Employment attorney Tom Rogers will then discuss the legal implications of the case. How can employers retaliate against those who report wrongdoing? What recourse do employees have if there is retaliation?  Finally we discuss the tradeoffs involved. How can we design a system that permits firing genuinely unproductive or disruptive employees while not only protecting but encouraging employees to report wrongdoing? Podcast Here.

The Think Tank election postmortem: Dr. Mike O’Neil gives you his take on what happened this week- 1. The big picture: What happened? 2. Arizona: Are the Democrats heading towards extinction? (We know they are endangered) 3. How the Democrats blew this election. (Hint: they wimped out big time). 4. What happens this January — cooperation or confrontation and compromise? Podcast here.

Think Tank pre-election finale: After the election, where are we headed? Arizona Republic columnist (and a former Republican operative) Robert Robb and Ron Ober, Democratic operative. More importantly, both are long-time and astute observers of Arizona politics. Podcast here.

The Ebola panic: Justifiable fear or irrational panic?: We have divided this week’s show in half.

If you watch cable news, you will see it has been dominated by discussions of Ebola. Is the volume of attention warranted? We will discuss what we know about the current state of the Ebola virus and the government’s response to it. And we put this in perspective by comparing its impact to many other medical risks. Did you know, for example, that an average of 40 Americans die each year from falling appliances and furniture. Killer furniture, anyone? Government workers: Does the civil service protect the lazy or protect us against political patronage? Talk radio has been abuzz this week with reports that tens of thousands of federal workers are being kept on paid leave while they wait to be punished for misbehavior or cleared and allowed to return to work. The tab for these workers exceeded $775 million in salary alone. We could eliminate civil service protections and fire these employees, but the result might be a return to a political patronage system whereby government jobs are available to the politically connected rather than to the competent. The expense is an outrage. Would the fix, however, be worse? Podcast here.

Dirty ads, dirty money, and dirty politics: Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts and congressional reporter Rebekah Sanders join the Think Tank as we dissect campaign ads: dirty ads, effective ads and ads that bomb.

And our final segment discusses campaign fundraising: who has the money and what we know about where the third party and “dark” money comes from. Podcast here.

Candidate night in the Think Tank: Attorney General candidate Felicia Rotellini and Secretary of State candidate Terry Goddard join the Think Tank for an examination of their issue positions and qualifications.

Note: Goddard’s opponent Michele Reagan declined, Rotellini’s opponent Mark Brkovich did not respond to our invitation to participate in this discussion. Podcast Here.

The Think Tank’s 2014 Election Prediction ShowMike O’Neil gives you his best shot at what will happen in the 2014 elections — at least after observing why election predictions were so good in 2008 and 2012, and why are they unlikely to be as good in 2014. Will the Republicans take over the U.S. Senate? Will there be meaningful changes in the U.S. House? And what will happen in Arizona? We remain a deeply red state. But, in spite of this, could Democrats actually sweep all four contested statewide offices? All this, and more in this week’s Think Tank. Podcast here.

The Drums of WarWe were all outraged by the recent beheadings undertaken by ISIS/ISIL. The president promised a firm response, but “no boots on the ground”. Is this possible? What if an American pilot is shot down, captured, and beheaded? Will “no boots on the ground” be tenable then? If we are going to bomb, this is war. If we are going to go to war, shouldn’t we consider what we are getting ourselves into first? Da Jude Eeg will call in from Tel Aviv, Israel. He is a Cameroonian national who has worked in Israel, France and Rwanda for the past 15 years. Dr. J’Lein Liese is an expert in leadership and conflict resolution with extensive knowledge of and contacts in the Middle East. They have often conflicting perspectives on what we should do. Podcast here.

Democractic nominee for Arizona Superintendent, David GarciaDr. David Garcia, Democratic nominee for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction joins the show. (Note: Diane Douglas, the Republican nominee was invited and declined to participate). We discuss a wide range of educational topics including Dr. Garcia’s assessment of the current quality of education in Arizona, his proposed “fixes,” and what power a Superintendent of Public Instruction really has to implement these. We also touch on all the “hot button” educational issues: Common Core standards, the role of testing, how to evaluate quality schools and teacher selection issues. Given last week’s guest, Amanda Ripley (author of “The Smartest Kids in the World”) we also discuss his take on this book and what he thinks the implications are for education in Arizona. Podcast here.

The smartest kids in the world and how they got that waySeveral other countries are producing way better educational outcomes, while spending less on education and paying teachers considerably higher salaries than we do in the U.S. Furthermore, they do it in public schools that educate everyone, not just cherry-picking motivated students in private or charter schools. Amanda Ripley, author of “The Smartest Kids in the World,” examined how these countries do it. A hint of her findings: Neither the “liberal” nor the “conservative” so-called “solutions” commonly discussed in this country do anything to address the systemic problems we have, so neither approach will change much of anything. But each of these countries were not always so successful, each made changes that produced dramatic and fairly rapid results. Effective change not only could be done, it has been done in countries with the same challenges we face. “This is the most insightful book I have ever read on the subject of what ails American education,” Think Tank host Mike O’Neil said. “Furthermore, the book presents a clear path to a solution to school underperformance. What is less clear, however, is whether we have the political will to do what it would take to fix our schools.” Author Amanda Ripley is our guest in the Think Tank this Sunday. And, in our final segment, Pat McMahon joins host Mike O’Neil to discuss what she had to say. Podcast here.

Why is Healthcare So Expensive? It’s not Obamacare (or the lack thereof). It is a lot of stuff you probably haven’t considered. Our guest, Dr. Francine Hardaway has. And, based on years of observations, she shares her perspectives. Podcast here.

Government Spending: Out of Control? We have all complained about “Government Spending.” It’s too big, taxes to support it are too high, It is Out of Control, etc. But it is often easy to lose sight of what are Big items vs. Small ones. (Because if we don’t like it, we think it is Big; if we do like it, it is Small). This week’s Think Tank takes a look at three of the biggest pieces of federal government spending. And they are not the areas you usually hear about when you hear complaints about Out of Control Government Spending. Podcast here.

Congressional races, polling themes and listener take on immigration– Arizona Republic reporter Rebekah Sanders discusses the nine Arizona Congressional races. The interesting ones to watch are:

  • the Democratic primary contest between Mary Rose Wilcox and Ruben Gallego in CD7,
  • the Republican race in northeastern Arizona between House Speaker Andy Tobin, businessman Gary Kiehne and freshman state lawmaker Adam Kwasman,
  • the prospects of likely Republican nominee Martha McSally to knock off incumbent Ron Barber in Tucson, and
  • whether Kirsten Sinema has made herself unbeatable in what was seen as a toss-up district

Our final two segements deal with:

  • the implications of Republican polling for Governor and
  • listener reactions to last week’s show on immigration. Podcast here.

Central American Immigration: Why are they coming here?As net immigration from Mexico has dropped to near zero, it has been replaced by a surge in immigration from Central America, notably Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. And many of these new immigrants are children. Why are Central American children enduring hardships and risking death to come to this country? Our guests this week are both Arizona natives who have significant experience in Central America. Earl de Berge is a Phoenix native and businessman who has spent nearly half of his time over the last 30 years living in Guatemala. Terry Greene Sterling is an award-winning Phoenix journalist who recently completed an assignment in Central America for Newsweek. Podcast Here,

Dirty Politics and Dark MoneyArizona Attorney General Tom Horne leads off this weeks show. Has the state’s leading law enforcement officer violated campaign and civil service laws — or is he the victim of unfounded allegations? Hear what he himself has to say about these allegations and then hear the response of the attorney who represents his most recent accuser. Tom Ryan, attorney for Sarah Beattie, who has accused Horne of using state employees to do his campaign work on the public dime, is also our guest this week. And reportorial sleuth Evan Wyloge, a specialist in tracking the millions of dollars of “dark money” (campaign dollars with undisclosed donors) in this year’s political campaigns discusses this, independent expenditure campaigns, and money and politics generally. Podcast Here.

Former Attorney General Grant Woods joins the showFormer Attorney General Grant Woods has unique perspectives on many contemporary Arizona political issues. Hear what he has to say about:

  • The prospects for moderates and moderation in the Republican Party.
  • The viability of lawsuits versus the federal government.
  • The reason Arizona has so many laws struck down by the federal courts.
  • How the gubernatorial race shaping up, especially the Republican primary.
  • Who is in deeper trouble: Beleaguered Attorney General Tom Horne or the blogging Superintendant of Public Instruction John Huppenthal?

The most candid views from political figures usually come from retired public officials. Hear one of the most thoughtful and articulate of them and someone who was personally involved in many of these issues.Former Attorney General Grant Woods is our sole guest for the entire hour. Podcast Here.

Middle East Prophecies, Tea Party, Graduation speeches and Politician Self-Destruction: Lightening round this week. Four segments, four topics.

  • Middle East Prophecies: How they are driving what’ is happening
  • The Demise of the Tea Party? Not so fast.
  • Arizona Politics:  Candidate self-destruction.
  • The Graduation Speech your kid should have heard (but didn’t). Podcast.

How Water Rights and Water Projects Shaped Arizona: Renowned Arizona historian Jack L. August is in the Think Tank this week. He discusses the history of Arizona through the spectrum of evolving patterns of water use in the state. Without federal water projects, Arizona would be a sparsely populated way station  on the way from New Mexico to California. We do live in the desert, but are we really likely to run out of water? Did you know Arizona had an actual shooting war with California?  Who is the most important Arizonan ever? Fascinating stories about some of the colorful figures who have shaped Arizona history in ways that still reverberate today.Podcast.

Cantor’s Demise: Tea Party Implications: Political insiders regard Sabato’s Crystal Ball as one of the most insightful sources of information on American politics available anywhere. This week’s Think Tank features Kyle Kondik, the Managing Editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball.  We discuss the biggest political surprise of 2014: the demise of House Majority leader Eric Cantor. How did this happen?  What are the implications of his defeat?  Were suggestions of the death of the Tea Party premature? During the course of that discussion, local political guru, Bob Grossfeld weighs in with his always pithy political insight—and his observations on the implications for Arizona politics.  Podcast.

Scandals, Prisoner Swap and Tiananmen Anniversary: This week’s Think Tank explores two scandals, one national, one local: the VA Scandal and allegations Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s office put state paid employees to work on his re-election campaign.   We also discuss differing points of view on the prisoner exchange for U.S. serviceman Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban who were in Guantanamo. Finally, this week is the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. We discuss some little-known aspects of that confrontation and make some personal observations on how China has evolved in the quarter century since.  Podcast.

“So You Want to be Governor?”: Two Republican candidates for Governor get grilled in the Think Tank. Scott Smith was a business executive before becoming Mayor of Mesa. Ken Bennett was President of the Arizona State Senate before becoming Arizona Secretary of State.  By most accounts these are two of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination for Governor.  We ask each about his vision for the state and what he hopes to accomplish as Governor.  We plan to interview all of the gubernatorial candidates before the August primary.  Podcast.

  • Why, contrary to everything you have heard, this could be the Least Important Election in many years.
  • Women make 77 cents on the dollar?  Is this an outrage, or a phony statistic?
  • Monica; one observation we have not yet heard — until now.
  • The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Why we shut down our brains and stop listening. Podcast.

“The Smartest Kids in the World”. Several other countries are producing way better educational outcomes, while spending less on education and paying teachers considerably higher salaries than we do in the U.S.  (And doing it in public schools that educate everyone , not just cherry picking motivated students in private or charter schools).  Neither liberal nor conservative solutions do anything to address the systemic problems we have, so neither approach will change much of anything. Effective change not only could be done, it has been done in countries with the same challenges we face.  But it takes political will and a willingness to honestly address what holds our system back.  Podcast.  

2014 Legislative Wrap Up Show. Arizona Republic Legislative reporters Yvone Wingett Sanchez, Mary Jo Pitzl and Howie Fisher of Capitol Media Services discuss what the just concluded legislature did, Governor Brewer’s legacy and other current statewide issues. Podcast.

Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts discusses dark money in politics and other threats to our democracy.  “Issue advocacy” ads, illegal campaign co-ordination with supposedly “independent” campaigns. Podcast.

The Legacy of Charlie Keating. Builder, developer, banker, purchaser of politicians, convicted swindler. Orchestrator of the “Keating Five” U.S. Senators (including two from Arizona) which produced a wave of campaign finance reforms. We won’t likely see one like him again, or will we?  Podcast. Alfredo Guiterrez is one of the most enduring and interesting figures in recent Arizona history.  From an Arizona mining town, to working alongside Caesar Chavez, to Senate Minority and Majority Leader. Lifelong troublemaker. Important Arizona historical figure. Podcast. The Politics of Obamacare. Political Crystal Ball (Who will win EVERY election for the next 5 years). Demography is Destiny:  Why it may not matter Dems or Repubs in control. Podcast. Is Downtown Phoenix Cool? Is it getting there? 

  • Jenny Poon, Founder, CO+HOOTS; Owner, Eeko Studio
  • Shannon Scutari, Executive Director, Sustainable Communities Collaborative
  • Dave Krietor, President/CEO, Downtown Phoenix, Inc. Podcast.

Ukraine. Arizona Politics. Free wheeling discussion. Podcast.

Senator Dennis DeConcini.  How have our politics changed since Senator DeConcini served three terms in the U.S. Senate? Podcast.

Are Independent Voters Getting a Fair Shake II: The Arizona Perspective. Former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson. Podcast.

Are Independent Voters Getting a Fair Shake?  Jackie Salit, President of Independent Voters of America. Podcast.

Supreme Court Outlook. By the end of June, the Court will rule on important cases involving abortion, affirmative action, campaign finance, Presidential recess appointments, and search and seizure. ASU Law Professor Paul Bender, one of the most sophisticated observers of the Supreme Court, is a former Supreme Court law clerk. Podcast.

Voting “Reform” or Voter Suppression, with Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts. Podcast.

NSA Spying: National Security Necessity or Government Overreach? Is the National Security Agency just doing what is necessary to protect the nation against terrorism, or has it gone to far violating our constitutional rights to privacy?  Or both?   Podcast.

Hot Coffee? Someone spills coffee on themselves and collects millions in a lawsuit.  That’s the five second version we all heard from Jay Leno.  Susan Saladoff is a documentary film producer and attorney who says this version is completely misleading. She joins us along with prominent local attorney Tom Rogers as we examine this and other relevant legal issues.  Podcast.

Jon Talton is a former Arizona Republic Columnist, urban guru, and aPhoenix native who has a unique and thoughtful perspective onPhoenix andArizona.  His is a very “long view” of the history and development (in both senses of the word) the metro area. Listen in – and hear why he was “too hot to handle” for the Arizona Republic.  Podcast.

2013 Political Wrap Show. We did not repeat a single guest in 2013, but it is a new yer and we are bringing back 2 of the best. Year end review with top journalists: Podcast

  • Fernanda Santos,  “New York Times Phoenix Bureau Chief
  • Robert Robb, Az Republic Columnist
  • Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services who covers the AZ Legislature.