Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Where's the Scandal?

Must we do this again? Apparently, yes. While one local media pundit continues to beat this dead horse, national G-O-TEA media spinners have begun beating the "ZOMG!!! Hillary Clinton is a rich b---h!!!!" dead horse of a "scandal".

What Fox "News" talking heads call "rock star diva outrageous demands" are actually considered standard operating procedure for high profile politicians. If Hillary Clinton is a "rock star diva" making "outrageous demands", then so are George W. Bush, Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich.

But of course, Hillary Clinton is different... Because she's "stealing money from UNLV students"! Except she's not.

No really, the UNLV Foundation relies on private donations to fund its efforts to raise private money for UNLV (since the public college doesn't receive enough public funding). Since Hillary Clinton's speech will be for the UNLV Foundation, her speaking fee came from private donations. Already, there have been more than enough private donations to cover the fee. She has already donated that fee to charity. And the October event will likely raise a hefty sum... For the benefit of UNLV and its students.

So where's the "scandal"? Where were all these media pundits when politicians like Rudy Giuliani cashed in on big speaking fees? And where were they when Governor Brian Sandoval (R) pushed for more UNLV budget cuts in 2011?

Ironically, one of the most vocal critics of Clinton's UNLV Foundation gig accepted a for-pay speech at UNLV herself. And she's not alone on the list of high profile individuals UNLV and/or the UNLV Foundation paid to give a speech. So why are we still wasting so many characters arguing over this Hillary Clinton speech?

Whenever a Clinton runs for President, strange things happen. Extramarital affairs become "impeachable offenses". A money losing land deal becomes some horrifically sophisticated money laundering scheme. A tragic attack on a US consulate becomes some bizarre mass murder conspiracy. And a speaking fee becomes some heinous crime against higher education.

Perhaps if Republican political operatives and their media enablers were to spend less time hyperventilating over fictitious "scandals" and more time preparing better policies for their preferred Presidential candidates to espouse (along with decent candidates for them to prefer), they'd actually have a viable 2016 alternative to Hillary Clinton.

"Everything She Got"

Expect some major legal fireworks in Simi Valley, California, later today. After fleeing there to evade arrest for the near fatal assault of Christy Mack, War Machine (aka Jonathan Koppenhaver) is due to appear in the Ventura County Courthouse for an extradition hearing. The Clark County District Attorney's office wants him back here in Nevada to stand trial for the Christy Mack attack.

The newly released Las Vegas Metro Police report mostly confirms Christy Mack's account of what happened. It then goes on to claim War Machine attempted to rape Mack (aka Christine Mackinday) before beating former "Megan Wants a Millionaire" contestant Corey Thomas and Mack. Needless to say, the Metro Police report shines more light on why War Machine decided to run away when he had his initial chance to tell police his side of the story.

However, that isn't stopping some celebrities some speaking up on War Machine's behalf. Earlier today, "Sons of Anarchy" star Chuck Zito actually said Mack "deserved everything she got" if she indeed "cheated" on War Machine.

So she "deserved everything she got" if she "cheated"? And because the police report has her describing the relationship with War Machine as "on again, off again", that means she's a "liar" and a "slut" who "deserved everything she got"?

There's a term for this. It's called "slut shaming".

"Everything she got"? Everything Christy Mack got was attempted rape and quite possibly attempted murder. And she's not alone. 600 people are raped every day in this nation. That's two people every minute. Yet all too often, victims are told they "deserve everything they get" because they did something "slutty".

"Everything she got" was a horrific attack on her life. And yes, it's not her fault. No matter what War Machine thought of his relationship status with her, no matter how Christy Mack described her relationship with him, and no matter what Corey Thomas was doing on her bed, there is no justification for the kind of violence that occurred at Mack's house. "Everything she got" was a crime committed against her. That's why War Machine is now in court.


Violence and turmoil erupted again last night. This time, tear gas was used. Rocks were thrown. (More) Journalists were arrested. And Ferguson endured its most brutal night of conflict yet.

Ferguson has become a flashpoint in the growing conflict over police brutality, ongoing economic injustice, and institutionalized racism. But for G-O-TEA media pundits, this is just another chance for them to peddle conspiracy theories and inflammatory rhetoric.

Apparently, they haven't paid close enough attention to what's happening in Ferguson. While police continue to attack both protesters and journalists, most of the protesters have been dissenting peacefully. Oh, and they've also been cleaning up the street every morning. That's certainly something we typically don't hear from G-O-TEA media spinners decrying the "lawlessness" of Ferguson.

Even CNN's Don Lemon had to experience firsthand the reality of what's happening there.

This unrest first erupted because of public anger over the murder "good police work" of Michael Brown. Yet instead of answering questions and allowing for any kind of justice, police have added fuel to the fire by unleashing so much brutal force on both protesters and reporters. And now they're wondering why Ferguson is so tense and why a few demonstators have turned to rocks and Molotov cocktails to fight back.

Now don't get us wrong, we never condone violence. Two wrongs never make a right. No one should be celebrating the suffering of real human beings. So why don't Ferguson city officials and their G-O-TEA media apologists understand this?

Ironically, these very G-O-TEA media spinners were condemning local and federal law enforcement here in Nevada when they were trying to simply enforce the law in Bunkerville. When Cliven Bundy and his Patriot Movement militia buddies were engaging in armed conflict against federal agents, G-O-TEA politicians & pundits were praising them as "freedom fighters". Yet when a very large majority of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, demonstrate against the wrongful execution of an innocent man, they're demanding water cannons and condemning voter registration drives.

Does anyone else notice the disconnect here? We wonder what may be causing this logical disconnect. We wonder why they're describing something that's far different from what the rest of us are actually seeing there. And we wonder why they're condemning protests that are less violent than the protests they championed on live TV 24/7 just four months ago. Why are we seeing this disconnect?

The Final Say

So it finally happened yesterday. The first signatures were recorded for the The Background Check Initiative. State Senator Justin Jones (D-Enterprise), Victory Baptist Church Pastor Robert E. Fowler, Former Clark County Sheriff Bill Young, and Safe Nest Community Relations Director Lisa Lynn Chapman were the very first Nevadans to sign at Victory Baptist Church in Las Vegas. And they'll be far from the last.

Nevadans for Background Checks must collect at least 101,667 signatures by November 11. This means they must collect at least 25,416 signatures from each of Nevada's Congressional Districts by November 11. That's one tall order.

However, that's an order they're confident they can fill. And why's that? Check the poll numbers. Well over 80% of Americans (and Nevadans) support expanding background checks for gun purchases. And for the first time ever, gun violence was one of the top concerns for American parents in the University of Michigan's national poll on children's health.

Of course, the actual campaign going forward may not be as easy as those national poll numbers suggest. After all, we know the NRA will do anything to stop even modest gun safety reform (and spend plenty of money while doing it). Despite the NRA's own history of supporting gun safety reform legislation in the past, it now even fights against expanding background checks.

Already, Senator Jones' Republican opponent is trying to have it both ways on gun violence. While she claims she "hasn't made up her mind yet" on The Background Checks Initiative, she stridently opposed SB 221 (last year's bill on which the new initiative is based) because she wanted to argue over the definition of "transfer". Apparently, she hasn't read the initiative. And apparently, neither she nor her political mentor will admit that someone who's planning to use firearms for nefarious purposes does not "volunteer" for background checks.

So it's finally happening. The Background Checks Initiative is moving forward. Signatures are now being gathered. And despite the best efforts of the usual G-O-TEA suspects to obfuscate and delay this matter to death, the people of Nevada are about to have the final say on this matter.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Missouri Burning

Why there? Why now? Why this? Why Ferguson?

On Thursday, we discussed how the history of de jure and de facto racial segregation have shaped the turmoil that's come to define Ferguson today. Desert Beacon just dove deeper into the St. Louis region's troubled past. Needless to say, it's a troubled past full of racial discrimination, municipal government turf wars, and sharp economic transitions.

Yet even as we're starting to understand how and why this is happening, we're still shocked by this. Why is this happening in America?

We've witnessed the incredibly disturbing trend of police militarization. Why are "peace officers" using weapons of war, sometimes even against unarmed civilians? Back in June, Congress had the opportunity to support bipartisan backed legislation to curtail a US Defense Department program that ships excess inventory of heavy artillery to local police departments. When it came to the House floor for a vote in that chamber, it failed by a huge margin. (And for the record, all of Nevada's House Members voted against this amendment.)

We now have a better sense of what Ferguson's and other police forces are using against civilians, but we must also address why they are using these military grade weapons against civilians. Why did Officer Darren Wilson shoot Michael Brown? It certainly wasn't because of the alleged robbery that the store never reported to police. So why did this occur?

And why have there been so many other "officer involved shootings" (and beatings) of unarmed civilians? Why are police officers allowed to commit acts they tend to arrest other people for? And why are we being told to just "submit" to this type of abuse?

And remember, we're not immune to this here in Nevada. Particularly in Southern Nevada, Las Vegas Metro Police has a disturbing record of "officer involved shootings" and excessive use of force. This is an issue that reaches far beyond Mississippi River.

But for the time being, Ferguson has become the epicenter of this horror. This corner of Missouri has become the burning reminder of something far too many of us have been far too afraid to publicly address. And it remains to be seen what else must occur (and who else must be hurt) before we finally take seriously this threat from within.

All Our Problem

We were careful in describing his career path on Thursday... Because we sensed this was coming. Accuracy is always important. But really, is this necessary?

(Go to 9:00 on the video below for the fireworks.)

Look, we get it. Dana White wants to talk about Ronda Rousey. He wants to talk about the all female cast of competitors on the new season of "The Ultimate Fighter". He wants to show us all the progress UFC has made in integrating women MMA fighters and valuing the contribution women are making to MMA.

Dana White and other UFC executives don't want to talk about War Machine, especially since he hasn't fought for UFC since 2008. They don't want to talk aboht Josh Grispi either, even though his last MMA fight was for UFC last year. (Basically, they're now receiving the Jason Miller treatment.) They don't want to talk about male MMA fighters running into domestic violence related trouble, especially when they feel they've done so much in recent years to promote equal rights in MMA.

Yes, UFC has made some progress in leaving behind its sexist past. Yes, War Machine had been under contract with Bellator this year (until he was released from that contract when this story first broke). But really, what's the point of arguing over who he was under contract with when?

Look, we get it. No one wants to take responsibility for the transformation of Jonathan Koppenhaver into War Machine. And no one wants to acknowledge the severity of rape culture in America. Even many (mostly "TEA" flavored) politicians scoff at the reality of violence against women.

Nope, it's easier to cry about some mythical "war on men". It's easier to dismiss the "disposable". And of course, it's so much easier to simply blame the victim.

Christy Mack is a porn star, so she must be a "slut" who "deserved it". Marichuy Gamino is an "illegal" and a "t----y", so she "deserves it". Jada went to the party, so she "deserves it".

No. Just no. No one "deserves it". No one deserves to be assaulted to near-death. No one deserves to be thrown into solitary confinement after reporting one's sexual assault. And no one deserves to be drugged and raped at a teen party.

As we said Thursday, this isn't just a MMA problem. This is an American problem. And it's long past time for us to blithely dismiss violence against cis and trans* women.

Dana White may be callous in trying to dump the entire War Machine fiasco onto the lap of a rival MMA league simply because that was the last league he worked for. However, we're no better when we ignore or marginalize violence against women that doesn't involve MMA fighters. This is all our problem. So what will we do to solve this?

Technical Difficulties (Again)

Not again! Yesterday, we had another round of technical difficulties.

And yes, those technical difficulties were again due to incredibly slow internet while we were out. This is nothing short of embarrassing. We sincerely apologize for the brief post this morning.

But hey, we might as well bring this up again. The internet is too damned slow. And it's long past due for us to do something about this.

Really, it's this bad.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Protect & Serve

We know it's not an easy job. We know it's a very dangerous job. We know this is the kind of job that most of us are too afraid to take up.

However, none of that excuses this. None of that excuses the horrific human rights abuses we've seen at the hands of the police in Ferguson, Missouri.

Ironically, much of the very brutality we've criticized in Iraq, Syria, Russia, and other nations with rather spotty human rights records is now underway here in America. Think about that. No wonder why the rest of the world often doubts our "commitment to freedom".

The violence in Ferguson didn't erupt overnight. It's the product of decades of racist housing policies, limited economic opportunities for communities of color, and local "law enforcement" who have provided anything but.

We realize that law enforcement has come under attack in recent months. Right here in Las Vegas, 2 Metro Police Officers were murdered by 2 Patriot Movement/sovereign citizen extremists. And just this week, a sovereign citizen in Dallas attacked firefighters and police officers. With radical right domestic terrorism on the rise again, public safety officers have become moving targets for these extremists.

However, this does not condone police violence against unarmed civilians. The threats posed by extreme right militias that grew out of the racist "posse comitatus" movement do not condone extreme violence against historically oppressed minority communities. And the day to day pressure of "life on duty" does not condone the brutal slaughter of Michael Brown and other unarmed civilians.

President Obama just called for calm after multiple nights of police attacks on protesters, police violence against journalists, violent riots, and looting in Ferguson. However, this problem isn't limited to Ferguson. It's a problem that's prevalent across the nation.

We've even witnessed it here in Southern Nevada. Even today, Las Vegas Metro Police's top cops refuse to acknowledge the severity of their growing list of "officer involved shootings". Justice still hasn't been served in cases like the Adam Greene's. Police brutality is just as much of a problem here as it is in the St. Louis region.

It's time to talk. We can't ignore this any longer. And really, we also need serious action to curb this disturbing trend of police militarization and excessive force against civilians. Law enforcement will never enjoy the respect they should otherwise expect if they don't respect the citizens they're supposed to protect & serve. It's time we address this problem and prevent more of these horrifically senseless deaths.

War Machine

Normally, we don't do this. But today, we just must. We noticed this Instagram post from UFC welterwight fighter John "Doomsday" Howard.

"This is for that p---y a-s War Machine. Yo, you're a straight b---h. I have three daughters, a mother, a sister and an aunt who went through that s--t. You're a straight p---y, straight p---y. A skilled fighter beating up a little girl like that. You're a p---y a-s motherf----r."

Wow. He certainly got his point across.

In case you're still scratching your head as to what "Doomsday" is talking about, he's referring to the horrific assault of Christy Mack last Friday. The Las Vegas porn star has taken to Twitter to describe the details of the attack that nearly ended her life. And she has already named ex-boyfriend Jonathan Koppenhaver as the perpetrator.

So why are "Doomsday" and other MMA figures freaking out on social media? Koppenhaver, who is currently better known as "War Machine", had been fighting for Bellator MMA after bouncing around UFC and other MMA leagues. Even though Bellator has already fired "War Machine", MMA insiders are worrying about "War Machine" becoming the latest in a string of MMA fighters engaging in domestic violence.

This isn't the first time "War Machine" has run into this kind of trouble. Last year, he "jokingly" tweeted "real men rape". He was convicted of 2 misdemeanor assaults (in 2007 & 2008) here in Nevada before a 2010 San Diego bar fight led to 2 felony assault convictions in California. And just moments before the brutal and near fatal attack on Christy Mack, "War Machine" tweeted this.

"[...] f--k u talking about? She's my Property and always will be."

Obviously, this is why MMA insiders are concerned. However, they shouldn't be the only ones concerned by this.

In 2012, (the lower House of) Congress failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). It took nearly a year of pressure from Senators and constituents (on G-O-TEA House Members like Nevada's Joe Heck) before the House finally agreed to pass the bipartisan VAWA renewal that the Senate had already agreed to.

But why was this "controversial" at all? Behind the scenes, "TEA Party, Inc.", powerhouse Heritage Action announced it would actively campaign against VAWA renewal. It even declared it would negatively score Members of Congress who voted for VAWA. That dragged out (and almost completely dragged down) what was supposed to be an easy vote for a broadly bipartisan bill meant to aid victims of domestic violence.

Throughout 2012 and early 2013, G-O-TEA aligned interest groups (such as Heritage Action) seemed to be taking their queues from the Men's Rights Movement. The Men's Rights Movement doesn't just oppose legislation like VAWA. The Men's Rights Movement claims any and all efforts to combat sexist discrimination and other forms of misogyny are somehow "attacks on men".

From Darren Mack to Elliot Rodger, we've seen what happens when "men's rights activists" resort to extreme violence to "make a statement". However, most others don't go that far. That's because they don't have to. Rape culture has increasingly become mainstream, as politicians, professional athletes, music artists, and other celebrities have been trying to make misogyny culturally acceptable. And sadly, some in the "mainstream media" seem all too willing to "go along to get along".

And then, there's this. Reports are now surfacing about Las Vegas Metro Police biding its time in responding to Christy Mack's assault. Metro may have very well given "War Machine" just enough time to make a clean escape while threatening Mack's very fragile survival. What does this whole situation say about us? What does this growing trend of extreme misogyny say about our society?

It's not just MMA fighters and bosses who should worrry about "War Machine".

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Count on Joe"

Today, let's take another trip to the always exciting Nevada Progressive archives. This time, we're traveling back to September 2011. Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) was caught doing a rare town hall meeting in Summerlin. And he had to answer a tough question from the audience on his vote for Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wisconsin) Medicare busting austerity budget earlier that year.

Ouch. He had to resort to rhetorical pretzel twists to defend that vote... Yet he voted for another Paul Ryan austerity budget in March 2012. But after he caught some political heat for those votes later that year, Rep. Joe Heck turned around and voted against the third Paul Ryan austerity budget last year.

Now, Heck seems to be feeling the "Ryan-mentum" again. This past June, Rep. Heck had Paul Ryan write a fundraising letter for his reelection campaign. Of course, the letter contains all the usual accusations of President Obama, Senator Harry Reid (D), and Nancy Pelosi being such meanie poopyheads who won't let the "YOUNG GUNS!!!" have any fun on Capitol Hill. Oh, and Rep. Ryan "can count on Joe as a leader in the struggle to revive our economy".

How so? Was he talking about the government shutdown that yanked $26 billion out of our economy? Is he talking about the continuing denial of unemployment insurance (UI) that's hut over e million Americans (including over 37,000 Nevadans)? Is he talking about the denial of a minimum wage increase that could have given our economy the extra boost we all need? Or is he just talking about his austerity program that's been suppressing economic growth?

Income inequality is a serious problem in this nation. Don't believe us? See the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Standard & Poors (S&P) reports. Income inequality hinders economic growth.

And Paul Ryan's austerity regime is worsening our income inequality problem. Is that what he meant when he "can count on Joe as a leader in the struggle to revive our economy"? He can certainly "count on Joe" to vote for his policies that harm the economy and hurt working families. And if that's the message they want to share with Nevada voters, we won't stand in the way of that.

Armed, "Sovereign", & Dangerous

Last month, the local "newspaper" figured it was a great idea to publish the new home address of US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D). What could possibly go wrong with that?

Apparently, the local "newspaper" didn't realize that Charles Jason Moreland was already sending explicit emails to Senator Reid declaring that he's "a dead man". Moreland wrote to Senator Reid to demand he resign from office "or face stern, harsh, unimaginable consequences to him and his family." And now, Moreland is about to stand trial in an Oklahoma federal court for his alleged death threats against Senator Reid.

Meanwhile just to the south in Texas, Douglas Lee Leguin was arrested in a tony North Dallas neighborhood. Dallas firefighters had arrived to fight a dumpster fire when Leguin allegedly opened fire on them. A SWAT team was then called to respond to him. And after an armed standoff with police, Leguin was arrested and charged with 7 counts of aggravated assault.

During the shootout with police, Leguin declared himself to be a "sovereign citizen". This isn't the first time a sovereign citizen has resorted to violence to "fight for freedom". In May 2010, the father-son team of Jerry & Joseph Kane shot dead West Memphis, Arkansas, police officers Brandon Paudert & Bill Evans during what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop.

Sovereign citizens and their ideological twins in the Patriot Movement are not above violence. In fact, they sometimes resort to violence to "start the revolution".

Does the West Memphis murder of 2 on-duty police officers seem eerily familiar? If so, that may be due to what happened in Las Vegas this past June. Metro Police Officers Alyn Beck & Igor Soldo were shot dead at a local CiCi's Pizza by Jerad & Amanda Miller to "start the revolution". They then moved to a nearby Walmart, where they shot Joseph Robert Wilcox dead before they sacrificed themselves to "the revolution" in their final standoff with Metro.

Before they brought "the revolution" to Las Vegas, the Millers were in Bunkerville to assist Cliven Bundy in his "Range War" against the federal government. The Patriot Movement and allied anti-government radicals formed a critical mass in Bunkerville to defend their fellow sovereign citizens at #BundyRanch. They declared "posse comitatus" as they commanded Metro Officers to arrest federal agents for trying to enforce federal law.

Even before Cliven Bundy made international headlines, radical right violence was on the rise. But ever since sovereign citizens and the Patriot Movement (re)gained major media attention earlier this year, they've been enjoying a cultural zeitgeist on the fringe right as they increasingly permeate into what's supposed to be "political mainstream". Even though the Bundy clan no longer command media attention like they did in April, various "TEA" flavored media personalities continue to fan the flames of Bundy approved extremism with discredited conspiracy theories and xenophobic fearmongering.

Charles Jason Moreland didn't just send ugly emails to Senator Reid. Last September, the Tulsa man sent The White House an email last September in which he threatened to go to Washington, DC, “and start killing people if the monitoring of his Internet and cell phones did not stop.” He also sent threatening emails to his local Member of Congress, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma).

Once upon a time, this kind of activity was considered shocking. Not any more. It's unknown at this time if Moreland has any direct ties to the Patriot Movement and/or any sovereign citizen group. However, we can't deny they're leaving indelible and rather dangerous marks on contemporary American politics.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Iraq Question

At one point, it seemed like it was beginning to fade from our memory. It was becoming "ancient history". And with so much to worry about at home, why must we think about it again?

But now, Iraq is back in the news. Isis (or "Islamic State") is on the move in Northern Iraq, and it may now have sights on Syria and Turkey as well. And now, fears are growing of a possible genocide in the region.

The US is moving back towards military engagement in Iraq. But before we debate what we should do there next, we must remember how we fell into this hot mess in the first place.

In October 2002, Congress voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq to combat the alleged stockpiling of "weapons of mass destruction" by then Iraqi Prime Minister Saddam Hussein. Before the vote, the Bush Administration made claims that Saddam Hussein was somehow involved in the September 11, 2001, (9/11) terrorist attack. There was never a formal declaration of war when the US led invasion began in March 2003. And after the invasion, it became painfully clear that there were no "weapons of mass destruction" prepared to be used against us... And that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.

After the invasion began, the Iraq War transformed from an allegedly "anti-terrorist operation" into some "armed humanitarian liberation of the Iraqi people". All of a sudden, our armed forces were in Iraq to initiate "regime change" and essentially force "democracy" at gunpoint. The neoconservatives who were advising then President George W. Bush on foreign policy were praising "freedom fighters" like Ahmad Chalabi and urging the US to expand our military presence into Iran, Syria, and elsewhere so we can spread "democracy" all over the Middle East. What was supposed to be a fast & easy "shock & awe" war to disarm terrorists was suddenly becoming a grandiose attempt to set up an American Empire halfway across the world.

Ironically, this war that was supposed to "disarm terrorists" actually succeeded... In arming terrorists. al-Qaeda never had a presence in Iraq before March 20, 2003. But after the US led "coalition of the willing" toppled Saddam Hussein's regime from power, an enormous power vacuum emerged. And by mid 2004, "al-Qaeda in Iraq" was wreaking havoc in the "Triangle of Death" around Baghdad.

US forces only succeeded in wresting control of the Baghdad exurbs from "al-Qaeda in Iraq" by arming Sunni militias who had grown uncomfortable with their continued presence in the region while providing "The Surge" of additional US soldiers into Iraq. But even then, "al-Qaeda in Iraq" was never fully eradicated. It only went dormant (until the inevitable "rebranding" that we'll get to in a moment).

What was supposed to be a "liberation of the Iraqi people" quickly devolved into a complete organizational clusterfuck as the US occupation of Iraq dragged on. Alleged "Iraqi Messiah" Ahmad Chalabi ran to Iran whenever they had money for him and became a nagging destabilizing force in the region. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) that took over after the end of Saddam's reign quickly emerged as a Keystone Kops style money laundering scheme. And the Shia led political bloc that ultimately took the keys from the CPA never seemed to unite the nation behind its government.

By 2011, what had previously been known as "al-Qaeda in Iraq" "rebranded" itself as Isis. And when Isis decided to disobey al-Qaeda Central's orders to limit civilian deaths when it jumped into Syria's civil war, the 2 terrorist networks divorced this past February. But now that Iraq's government is as unstable as ever, President Obama faces tough choices on how to prevent a horrid genecidal bloodbath in the region.

Oh, and so does Congress. But already, many of the same neoconservatives who misled the nation into the Iraq War in 2002 want to criticize just about anything & everything President Obama decides to do now. Some of the current G-O-TEA hotheads on Capitol Hill even want to return US ground troops to Iraq and revive the US occupation. And to make matters even more bizarre, some Democrats (who happen to be the same ones who voted for military force authorization in 2002) are harping about the Obama Administration's caution in arming rebels, even as many of the rebels the neoconservatives have wanted to support actually have ties to Isis.

As we ponder what to do next about Iraq, it's critical for us to remember the history of this war. It's crucial for us to remember the many painful errors and brutal blunders made in the 12 years so that we don't repeat them. And as Members of Congress decide what parameters to set on this latest mission into Iraq, they must remember their Constitutional duty and their precedecessors' big mistake.

Let's Talk Tesla

It's August, so we're spending the month time traveling. Today, we're heading back to this past April. Then, several states (including Nevada) were chasing after a new Tesla battery gigafactory.

Amidst all the talk of "Cleantech Crash", even Red States like Arizona and Texas were rushing to lure in Tesla and all those allegedly nonexistent green collar jobs. And now, rumor has it that Nevada, Texas, and California are the finalists for the gigafactory.

Excitement is obviously running high, especially in the Reno area. If Nevada is selected for the gigafactory, Tesla is expected to place it in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Park in Storey County (17 miles east of Sparks). Already, speculation is running rampant over a possible special session of the Nevada Legislature being called to address the $400-500 million Tesla executives expect the winning state to chip in to build the gigafactory. (It may happen if Tesla guarantees Nevada the gigafactory, though Legislature leaders don't sound all that excited just yet.)

So why are so many people so excited about Tesla? Consider this: Electric car sales have soared over 70% both in the US and in Europe just over the past year. Over the past 3 years, electric & hybrid car battery sales have tripled. And now that mostly electric hybrid and completely electric cars are starting to enter the automotive mainstream, the growth potential for this sector is looking quite attractive.

And then, there's this. Tesla and other electric car manufacturers are pieces of the puzzle that illustrates our energy future. Tesla, General Motors, and the US Military have all been investing in the research and development of longer lasting batteries. In recent months, Tesla has teamed up with SolarCity to work on solar power storage for commercial buildings. And global investment in renewable energy just hit a 5 quarter high as new projects have emerged from Denmark & Germany to the UK & China to Wyoming & South Carolina (!!!).

So why again are we supposed to believe "we can't afford" meaningful action on climate change? If anything, we can't afford the very real life-threatening (& economy busting) perils of climate change. Meanwhile, we have all these very real economic opportunitiesclimate action.

So what gives? The usual (fossil fuel peddling) suspects are threatened by the future by renewable energy. They're feeling threatened by the progress of Tesla and other electric cars. And they're threatened by the ramifications of aggressive climate action.

Ironically, they don't care about the ramifications of unchecked climate change. They don't care about human survival. They're simply putting short term profits over long term peril.

In the coming days, Nevada Government leaders will need to figure out just how badly they want Tesla's gigafactory in Storey County. But wherever it ultimately lands, it may very well provide glimmers of hope for a brighter future. And Tesla shouldn't be alone in investing in clean energy technology.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Seeing Florida Green

He's at it again. He's unloading his very overloaded wallet. And G-O-TEA politicians are rushing to worship at his feet to get in on the SuperPAC action.

G-O-TEA kingmaker Sheldon Adelson is back... With a vengeance. He's already writing the big checks again. "TEA" flavored politicians are flocking to Adelson's not-so-little corner of The Strip to curry favor. And Adelson is already trying to set the terms of debate for the 2016 Presidential Campaign.

So are we to expect a bunch of G-O-TEA Presidential hopefuls decry "reefer madness" next year? Believe it or not, Sheldon Adelson is now bankrolling the campaign to defeat a medical marijuana ballot initiative in Florida.

Why is Adelson pushing so hard against medical marijuana in Florida? He isn't funding the anti campaigns in the other states with marijuana on the ballot (such as the full legalization initiative in Oregon). And Adelson's medical research foundation has been funding medical marijuana research in Israel! So what's Adelson actually doing in Florida?

Apparently, he's looking out for Governor Rick Scott (R). Scott is locked in a difficult race for reelection, and some Republican consultants have worried that the medical marijuana ballot initiative will boost turnout this fall... Along with Charlie Crist's (D) hopes for a political comeback.

Of course, Sheldon Adelson is also looking out for himself. It just so happens that Las Vegas Sands wants to open casinos in Florida. But as of now, legislation to expand legal gaming in Florida (beyond the Seminole tribal holdings) remains stalled. Adelson seems to hope Rick Scott will try to revive gaming expansion if reelected... And make sure Las Vegas Sands emerges with shiny new contracts for shiny new Florida casinos.

We've been wondering why Sheldon Adelson has been so quiet about medical marijuana proceeding right here in his own state while he's bankrolling the anti-marijuana campaign in Florida (and funding medical marijuana research in Israel). Yet the more we sniff into this, the more we sense Adelson cares more about the kind of green he rakes in at his casinos than the kind of green Florida patients hope will finally become more accessible. And now, we're left to wonder if we'll be seeing more of these crafty political maneuvers as Adelson prepares to ramp up his 2016 political shopping spree.

Worst Kept Secret

Last week, a G-O-TEA Member of Congress told us a secret. No really, he went on live national TV and told everyone the secret. And even though this secret was never well kept to begin with, party bosses were embarrassed.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) seemed to think he landed the perfect attack against President Obama with his "War on Whites" tirade. Instead, he revealed to all of America why Republican "leaders" abandoned comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) after 18 months of duplicitous promises and 12 months of letting a bipartisan Senate CIR bill die a rather ignominious death in some darkened corner of a House committee room.

In recent weeks, we've been digging deep into the anti-immigrant movement and how it's influencing federal immigration policy. While John Tanton, Jim Gilchrist, William Gheen, and the late Barbara Coe have never served in Congress, their presence on Capitol Hill looms large. Over the years, they've squeezed their hate into political juice. And in turn, they've twice succeeded in killing CIR in Congress (first in 2006, and again now).

Oh, and speaking of Jim Gilchrist, he made a big splash on the brand new Newsmax TV network last week. Since Newsmax TV strives to be "Fox News" on steroids, cocaine, LSD, and Ecstasy all rolled into one, Gikchrist must have figured this would be a very friendly interview. But when Newsmax's Ed Berliner asked Gilchrist about Shawna Forde, Chris Simcox, and other unsavory moments in Minuteman history, Gilchrist clammed up.

So why are we talking about Gilchrist and his magnificent militia fantasies again? And why are we talking about the criminal record of his past close associates again?

See above. Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colorado) just wrote an op-ed for WorldNetDaily (which is on par with Newsmax in the bats--t crazy department, yet incredibly "respected" on Capitol Hill) demanding "we should all stock our ammunition shelves and join a militia" if President Obama isn't impeached. Meanwhile in Fox-land, G-O-TEA media spinners have been trying to turn an ex-Marine on trial in Mexico for gun smuggling charges into the new Cliven Bundy. And Former G-O-TEA Presidential Candidate (& current CNN pundit) Newt Gingrich went on NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday to claim "Venezuelan Style, Anything I Want Is Legal Presidency" is somehow right around the corner if President Obama takes any further executive action on immigration.

G-O-TEA Congresscritters and their favorite media pundits have been taking queues from the anti-immigrant movement for years. They blocked CIR. They're threatening legal action against the President for taking any executive action on the issue. And they've been engaging in the most toxic fearmongering imaginable.

So is it any suprise that radical right militia activity is on the rise (again)? This may very well be the worst kept secret in DC. Words have consequences, and actions have even more consequences. And it's time to completely rip the lid off this poorly kept secret.